Grandma’s a Drug Smuggler

LOS ANGELES–What’s become of our country when a 70 year old grandmother has to become a drug smuggler just to stay alive? In the richest nation in the world–the United States of America–people are facing a dire reality. They must often choose between basic necessities such as food–shelter–and medications. The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs has caused some people to resort to drug smuggling to survive.

To bring this escalating national problem to the forefront–Today’s Special–a public-interest organization founded by Chant Yedalian–a consumer attorney and activist–has released a song and cartoon titled "Grandma’s a Drug Smuggler." Using a classically sung chorus line of "Oh say can you see" from the Star-Spangled Banner–contrasted with lyrics such as "Grandma’s a drug smuggler" and "I ain’t no thug–I just need an affordable drug" sung in a hip-hop style–the song is intended to educate the public about the politics behind the rising costs of prescription drugs in the United States and how it jeopardizes the health of insured and uninsured Americans. The song highlights the fact that many of the same drugs sold in the US are available next door in Canada at half price or less–but the US government has made it illegal for Americans to import these more affordable drugs. The song and cartoon track the adventures of one bingo-playing granny who–with the help of her "bingo posse," becomes a drug-smuggling outlaw so that she can afford her prescription heart medication which will keep her alive.

The parody is based on some astonishingly grim facts:

The United States is the world’s largest market for pharmaceuticals–yet Americans pay the world’s highest prices. US prescription drug costs have increased by double-digit rates every year for the past nine years. US employers straddled with increasing prescription drug and health care costs are either cutting back on the coverage they make available to their employees or passing on some of the cost increases to their employees in the form of higher premiums–deductibles–or co-pays. Insured or not–Americans are facing ever-increasing out-of-pocket costs for their needed medications. Even seniors with drug coverage find the cost of prescription drugs often far exceeds their coverage limits and must choose between food–rent–and needed medications. As a result–one in five adults cannot afford to buy some or all of his or her prescribed medicines.

Many of the same popular prescription drugs are available in Canada and European countries (such as the United Kingdom and France) at a savings of 50% or more because these countries negotiate drug prices on behalf of all patients. Attempts to implement a similar approach in the US or to allow the importation of affordable drugs from these countries have thus far been blocked by the pharmaceutical industry.

Although the drug industry blames the high price of prescription drugs on research and development costs–financial reports filed by the drug companies with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that–on average–the drug industry spends over two times more on marketing–advertising–and administration than it does on research and development. During each of the years 1994 through 2002–the drug industry consistently ranked as the most profitable industry in the US–with profits 3 to 5.6 times that of the median of all Fortune 500 companies. As expressed by Grandma in the song–"drug prices are risin’ up steadily and drug companies are robbin’ us elderly."

There are currently two bills before Congress which would allow Americans to lawfully buy more affordable drugs from Canada and other countries. It is estimated that allowing open pharmaceutical markets could save Americans at least $38,000,000,000 each year. Both bills are opposed by the drug industry. Unfortunately–until some meaningful reform is made by the US government to control drug costs–people like grandma facing prohibitively expensive drug prices will resort to "smugglin’" to get their needed medications. The "Grandma’s a Drug Smuggler" song and cartoon–along with an informative "Fact Sheet," are available at the Today’s Special website (www.TodaysSpecial.org).

About the website

Today’s Special is a website dedicated to offering the scoop on injustice–one serving at a time. Today’s Special was created by Chant Yedalian–a consumer attorney and activist–to raise awareness about certain social issues. Part art–part activism–the website is a soulful–nourishing blend of social advocacy with a twist of entertainment. They take the raw facts of injustices–boil them down–and dish them out in a more understandable way that’s easier on your tastebuds.

To find them on the web go to www.TodaysSpecial.org.

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