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Internet Campaign to Promote Los Angeles Program - Consumers Do Not Have to Live In L.A. to Save

Santa Monica, CA -- Spurred by reports that prescription drug prices have increased three times faster than inflation during the first three months of this year, a nonprofit consumer group launched a national effort today to encourage seniors and other patients to sign-up for prescription drug bulk purchasing that could provide bigger discounts than those that Canada receives. To watch a short animation about how drug companies use their wealth and power to keep drug prices high and to sign up for bulk discounts, go to: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/bigpharma/

The animation criticizes the Bush Administration and Congress for banning the Medicare program from bulk purchasing and warns seniors and other consumers that they will pay the price for drug company profiteering.

The City of Los Angeles is in the final stages of preparing the nation's first city-based drug purchasing program, L.A. Rx, authored by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, which will seek to harness the buying power of Los Angeles' 9.3 million residents to negotiate lower rates. Patients do not need to live in Los Angeles to get access to bulk discounts.

"While drug companies have been allowed to price gouge, seniors and other patients can fight back by joining together to demand lower prices. We do not have to wait for Sacramento or Washington D.C. to stand-up to powerful drug companies. Cities, counties and groups can band together to form bulk purchasing pools to negotiate deep discounts," said Jerry Flanagan of the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "Not only shouldn't patients be forced to go to Canada to get the affordable medications they need, soon they may not have the option. We must develop solutions here in the U.S. Bulk purchasing relies on a simple market principle: the bigger the buyer, the better the price."

FTCR launched an Internet campaign today that will allow consumers to sign up for prescription drug bulk purchasing online. FTCR said it would collect email addresses from consumers throughout California and the U.S. who sign-up at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/bigpharma/ and notify them when programs are available in their area. FTCR pledged to make L.A. Rx a model for reform around the country and to form new purchasing pools to be linked together to increase buying power.

The Internet campaign features a flash animation promoting the L.A. Rx program and explaining why prescription drugs are so expensive, and a petition to policymakers urging that such a program be expanded to include all Americans.

Prescription drug bulk purchasing is a strategy used by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and big business to negotiate discounts of 50-70%. Under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, President Bush and Congress banned the 41 million-member Medicare program from negotiating bulk discounts. As a result of the ban, the Medicare drug program will be more expensive for seniors and taxpayers.

Carole Jaquez, who spoke at a press conference this morning with other seniors, has made the trek from her home to the Mexican border several times and rode the Rx Express twice to Canada to buy lower cost prescription drugs. Carole, who requires 8 prescriptions that cost her $400 per month, has tried to make sense of the Medicare drug program but she fears that she still be unable to afford her prescriptions. Due to the Medicare bulk purchasing ban, Carole will have to pay more than $2000 out-of-pocket each year for her medications.

During the 2004 election campaign, drug companies -- that will likely benefit from big boosts in profits as a result of the Medicare bulk purchasing ban -- contributed $17 million dollars to President Bush and members of Congress.

With 35 million people, a California-wide bulk purchasing program would be larger than all of Canada. Canada, England, Ireland and other countries negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of all patients. FTCR encouraged the nation's 300 million consumers to sign-up for bulk purchasing to form the world's most powerful buying pool.

The "L.A. Rx" proposal was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in May, 2005. FTCR noted that Los Angeles is particularly well-suited to negotiate drug discounts due to its large population. L.A. City, with 3.6 million residents, is the nation's second largest city. L.A. County, with a population of 9.3 million, is larger than 41 states. The Los Angeles City Council must approve the final plan before the program is implemented.

A report released today by AARP found that for three months of 2005, the cost of brand name prescription drugs most commonly used by older patients rose three times faster than the rate of inflation.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is California's leading nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization.