Let consumers get
drugs from Canada


The state is investigating a company that helps Hawaii residents buy prescription drugs at relatively low prices from Canada.

NEARLY $30 million in political contributions in the 2002 elections could reap rewards for the pharmaceutical industry. A $400 billion Medicare prescription drug bill before Congress stands to produce a windfall profit of $139 billion for the industry over eight years. Americans will be forced to turn to Canada in increasing numbers for affordable drugs. Congress should protect that activity until drug prices in the United States are voluntarily brought under control.

A company set up last year in Hawaii by retired businessman Chuck Malm to help patients purchase drugs from Canada has been receiving unwarranted heat from the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Malm has contested a subpoena from the department for patient records of his company, Canada Discount HealthCare Services of Hawaii.

As described by Malm to the Star-Bulletin's Lyn Danninger, his company's activities are perfectly legal, since his company does not handle the drugs and or operate as a pharmacy. The company is a mail-order operation that helps people buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies.

A federal judge in Oklahoma granted the government's request last week to shut down a company that helped customers buy cheaper prescription drugs through 85 American storefronts operating under the names Rx Depot and Rx Canada. The Food and Drug Administration complained that the company was illegally importing drugs outside the FDA's scrutiny; only manufacturers are allowed to bring the drugs into the country.

More than a million Americans reportedly order drugs from Internet and mail-order drugstores in Canada. They ordinarily send a prescription written by a U.S. doctor to a Canadian company, which has it reviewed and co-signed by a Canadian physician and filled by a licensed Canadian pharmacy. No laws in either Canada or the United States are being broken.

Prescription drug prices in Canada typically are 30 percent to 50 percent lower than in the United States, although a recent Associated Press survey found that prices of popular drugs were as much as 80 percent lower in Canada. The lower prices result from government price controls that the drug industry accepted in the early 1990s.

The FDA has lost credibility in claiming that unsafe drugs could be imported to the United States from Canada, whose drug approval process is as rigid as the FDA's. Instead, the agency appears to be selling snake oil of its own while acting at the behest of the drug makers.


Anti-smoking effort
deserves applause


Hawaii is spending slightly less than the federal government recommends on programs aimed at smoking prevention.

HAWAII is spending a much greater share of the money it receives from the national settlement with tobacco companies on smoking prevention than that spent by most other states, and the expenditures will earn dividends. Hawaii's percentage of adult smokers is less than the national average and the percentage of adolescent smokers has dropped in recent years. That success will result in less costs of medical treatment of tobacco-related illnesses.

One-fourth of Hawaii's tobacco settlement money, which totals nearly $37 million in the current fiscal year, initially went to smoking prevention when payments began in 1999, but the 2001 Legislature cut that amount in half so some of the money could go toward construction of a University of Hawaii medical school. This year's Legislature diverted nearly $2 million to the general treasury because of budget problems.

Tax revenue from cigarettes increased July 1, when the tax was increased by 10 cents to $1.30 a pack, and an additional 10-cent increase is scheduled for next year. The total revenue from tobacco taxes is estimated at $81.7 million.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Hawaii spend at least $10.8 million a year on smoking prevention, but only four states meet CDC's recommended levels. Hawaii spends $8.9 million, or 7.5 percent of the $118.6 million received from the settlement and tobacco taxes, nearly triple the national average for states, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"Hawaii is one of the few states that has made a solid commitment to tobacco prevention, but it is still falling short of the minimum amount recommended by the experts at CDC," says William Corr, the campaign's executive director.

As Hawaii's economy recovers, legislators should look at ways to raise spending on smoking prevention as a long-term effort to reduce medical costs. Tobacco-related health-care costs and losses in productivity are estimated at nearly $600 million. Deborah Zysman, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, says every dollar spent on prevention can save $3 in those costs.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke, Colbert
Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

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