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Seniors looking north for Rx relief

Canadian drugs could be cheaper

Hoping to save hundreds of dollars on medication, some West Newbury senior citizens are considering looking to Canada.

Last Tuesday, a small group gathered at the 1910 Building in West Newbury to hear a representative from a Canadian pharmaceutical firm speak about whether they would benefit by ordering their prescriptions from Manitoba.

For some elderly, across the state and across the country, monthly drug bills have become overwhelming. Single prescriptions can run more than $200. Membership fees for prescription plans can increase the amount by hundreds a year.

Those with little or no prescription coverage have found that buying medication straight from Canada may be far less expensive than buying in the United States.

"There are a lot of people who go right to Canada," said Olive West, speaking of bus trips that take seniors to Canada to buy medication.

West is the director of the West Newbury senior center, which organized last week's program.

Dutch Dwight, a drug representative with the Heartland Pharmacy, spoke about ordering prescriptions from Manitoba.

Many of the seniors complained that fees, copayments, and separate bills for enrollment in plans and medication have made it difficult to understand what one pays for the service, and whether Canadian companies offer a better deal.

Gladys Gittings, 70, of Groveland, said she pays a monthly fee for her state-run prescription program. She also pays more than $100 in copayments for two prescription drugs. She questioned whether the cost of the drugs with the monthly fee for the plan adds up to more than purchasing the drugs straight from Canada without insurance. "It's very complicated for people to figure out," said Gittings, who tried to list her medication-related expenses for Dwight and to figure out what she actually pays a month for what she needs. "They don't make it easy."

West said she expects more seniors to begin to take advantage of the Canadian option.

"I expected more to show up to the meeting," she said of the 15 who attended, after Dwight's presentation. "In West Newbury, it's hard to tell. There are many people who don't want anybody to know their business. There's also a lot of wealth in West Newbury."

Residents of Merrimac and Groveland also were invited to Tuesday's talk. Bethany Contino, an outreach worker from the Groveland senior center, attended to take information back to her community.

She said many seniors in the area may need more assistance because the state Prescription Advantage Program closed enrollment to seniors earlier this year.

"I think this may be a good option for people," Contino said. "They really get you. It's very expensive."

Dwight explained why Canadian pharmacies can offer lower prices. He set up appointments with individuals to discuss their options.

West said she has received several calls from similar drug representatives who hope to make presentations in town. She said she did not have concerns about Dwight and whether he runs a legitimate business because he had already spoken to seniors in Newburyport and Lawrence.

"Senior centers keep in touch closely about this," she said.

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