Friday, May 06, 2005

World of Pharmaceuticals

The Bertie Memorial Hospital's Speakers Bureau presented a lecture on the "Controversial World of Pharmaceutical Drug Companies" at the Bertie County Council on Aging in Windsor.

Claire Mills, Vice President of Patient Care Services for University Health Systems, was the opening speaker. She was followed, by guest speaker Wallace Nelson, Pharmacy Director for Bertie Memorial and Chowan Hospitals. Mr. Nelson is past President and current Board Member of the NC Board of Pharmacy.

Claire Mills and Wallace Nelson of UHS

Mr. Nelson covered the controversial world of pharmaceutical drug companies. He explored why prescription drugs are so costly, how companies spend their money, and the dangers of purchasing Canadian drugs.

Mr. Nelson presented the argument that the costs of drugs are out of control because of the actions of the drug corporations. He feels that local pharmacists and hospitals such as the one he represents are not the problem. He did note that as drug costs have gone up, the availability of drugs has reduced the need for more expensive medical care by doctors and others. This overall cost reduction is a major driving factor in the continuously escalating use of drugs. This does not alter the fact that consolidation in the drug industry has allowed companies significantly greater profits as competition has declined. The availability of patents has also allowed drug companies to create artificial marketing opportunities by heavy advertising of patent protected drugs in opposition to more cost effective generics.

Mr. Nelson discussed the complicated issue of Canadian drugs. Canada benefits from the drugs developed for the American market. After a drug is developed, Canada does a large scale purchase of the drugs for their country, negotiating with the drug company under the threat that they will not allow the drug into Canada other than as part of the socialized medicine purchase. Being 1/10th the size of America, they will never be able to supply all of us with these drugs, since the drug companies would not sell a larger quantity to Canada at the low negotiated price if the drugs were not a net additional market they could not otherwise reach.

Mr. Nelson addressed another factor he sees as problems with Canada, which he described as "they don't have the same level of control". There is a risk that when you buy, the company selling them to you is not really selling Canadian drugs but is in fact selling either knockoffs from third world countries, or fake drugs, since currently it is illegal for Canadian doctors to prescribe for American patients. Black markets are notoriously unreliable sources for products.

Mr. Nelson concluded his presentation with a review of the numerous discount programs available to reduce drug costs, and made recommendations about how to find the best program for each specific individual. The essence of this recommendation was to work with your pharmacist, and if he would not take the time, to find another pharmacist.

If you have any questions about this presentation or any service of Bertie Memorial Hospital, please contact Angela Perez by email, or call the hospital at 794-6653.


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