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Joe Shannon's COBRA coverage ran out in August of this year, and he has not bought the brand name prescription drugs he needs, because he has no coverage for brand names. He is still using the medications he had prior to Aug. 11 - osteo-type medications and pain medication for his artificial hips.

His wife, Joyce, takes roughly a dozen medications at a yearly cost of between $1,000 and $1,500.

Like many seniors, the Shannons, who have lived for 30 years in Raleigh, N.C., are struggling to get by in their so-called golden years. Joe worked for many years for the Thomas Lipton Tea Company, was in business for himself for a while, and then worked part-time for Eckerd Drugs. He had adequate health coverage for himself, his wife and their son, who is now 36.

In 2002, Joe developed trouble with his hip. The cartilage damage got worse, and over the next two years he had both hips replaced. COBRA helped for 18 months, but now the Shannons are facing hug health care costs and, more particularly, prescription drugs.

The Shannons hope to get their hands on needed medications when the Rx Express arrives in Toronto. But they also want to get a first-hand look at the Canadian health care system and assure themselves that the pharmacists are competent, there are no safety problems, and the system works. Then they can spread the word back here.

"I don't think Americans should have to go to Canada to buy their prescriptions," Joe says. "There should be a better way."