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    Letters to the Editors

    Sound off about drug profiteering


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 2, 2002

    Re: What makes an 8 cent pill cost $1.29?, May 26.

    I don't blame the drug companies, drugstores or the insurance companies for "cashing in" on prescription drugs in which their consumers have no choice because of their dependency on these drugs to sustain life. I'm not only referring to seniors. People of all ages become ill and may require a drug to survive. This is fact and the drug industry (overall) takes every advantage. Charging markups of up to 3,200 percent for generic drugs so drugstores can maintain high profit margins to offset low profits made from brand-name drugs is the apex of corporate greed along with total disregard for the welfare of the fellow Americans being denied substantial savings from generic drugs.

    I do blame our legislators for their continued ignorance of drug profiteering in this country. Legislators were concerned about our health care 10 years ago, five years ago and to this day, yet I see no positive signs of solution as the cost of drugs continues to escalate in one way or another.

    This problem has become completely out of control and will only worsen until the people start speaking out. I urge everyone to contact their representatives and tell them that enough is enough. We still have one priceless commodity that cannot be subjected to profiteering: Our vote!
    -- Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City

    Drug store realities

    Re: What makes an 8 cent pill cost $1.29?

    Well, here we go again. Every few years or so, there comes a story about unconscionable pricing at retail pharmacies by uninformed persons not privy to the business. The sensationalism created by assailing pharmacies makes for good reading and brings on a lot of finger-pointing, because in truth, most people don't like to pay for drugs, especially the very high-cost newer ones. While most of your reported facts are true, some are not, and the methodology of the report obfuscates and distorts pharmacy pricing because there is a lack of understanding of the forces that dictate pharmacy profits.

    First of all, the drugstore industry does not average 28 percent gross profit on pharmacy sales -- it is less than 21 percent (Drug Store News, April 29, 2002).

    Secondly, how do you compare the prices of a company that mail-orders only to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes to those of retail drug stores that are open 90 hours a week, some 24 hours a day, most holidays, are accessible for advice, consultation, corner convenience, and must conform to state labeling, staffing, storage, recording, etc. These are requirements not met by the Darby Drug Co. Corner drugstores are instant information and records retrieval centers. Innumerable other services are provided at no extra expense, none of which is provided by Darby Drug.

    Thirty years ago, pharmacy gross profit was typically 35 percent. Today's drugstore has to search for profits any way and anywhere possible. Of the top four drug chains nationwide, two show no profit the last four years and another for the last year. The number of drugstores in this country has been in a 20-year decline. After this year, pharmacy school graduations will decline, despite an increase in pharmacy schools and federal aid programs. There is right now a 7,700 pharmacist shortage nationwide. A major blight on the profession is the long decline of profitability in the industry.

    The dispensing of generics provides some relief to the beleaguered retail drug industry. Perhaps a grasp of reality in the very competitive world of retail pharmacy would serve to explain the seeming convolution of pharmacy prices.
    -- Anthony S. Comitos, Palm Harbor

    The building boom

    Re: What makes an 8 cent pill cost $1.29?

    A net profit of 2 percent after expenses, claim the drug companies? What a crock! Whom do they think they are kidding? Now we know where all the money is coming from to fuel this race to see who can build the most new drug stores . . . on seemingly every corner.

    Don't expect to see much of an effort by anybody to bring this under control. The mortgage payments on these testaments to unconscionable profits will go on, and on, and on, and on . . .
    -- John Bell, Largo

    U.S. role in settlements

    The settlement problem by David Newman (May 26) makes clear that the settlers believed they were doing their national or religious duty since they received generous loans, cheap water, an infrastructure of roads and protection of the Israeli Defense Force. One aspect of the problem Newman neglects is the responsibility of the American Congress.

    Every American administration since 1967 called settlements illegal, an obstacle to peace, or a complicating factor to negotiations. Yet no administration was able to give substance to its stated policy, primarily because of Congress' uncritical support of Israel. The Congress' generous annual aid to Israel was a tacit acceptance of, and indirectly supported, settlement expansion.

    It is now up to the Congress to accept its responsibility and help resolve this issue if there is to be any hope of peace.
    -- Arthur L. Lowrie, Lutz

    Capitalism out of control

    Re: Great disconnect, May 26.

    I get ill when I learn about the atrocities perpetrated on our people by a system that is running amok, and a system that is allowed to continue unabated by our populace. A CEO paying himself $77-million in a year when the company stock fell from $94 per share to $16 per share is, if not criminal, ludicrous to say the least. Stockholders lost billions during this same time. And this horror story is only one of literally thousands of like cases.

    Our capitalism is out of control, and allows outright thievery by those unscrupulous enough to take advantage of our system, under the guise of patriotism and the misguided notion they are part of the solution, when in reality they are part of the problem. Our country will only be hurt by the continuation of this uncontested greed. I firmly believe that when you harm the people you harm the country.

    It just seems to me that we have lost our way when it comes to fairness and justice. We must begin to heed the man who said "a nation that can't take care of its poor, can't protect its rich." Well, we have lots of poor in this country, without a job, or with a job that does not pay a living wage, without proper medical care, and without much hope for the situation improving. When the rich get richer year after year, the poor get poorer, and the middle class just seems to dwindle away. There's enough here for everyone! It's about time to divvy up!
    -- Harold Teague, Madeira Beach

    The corporate mentality

    If John McCain had been elected president, what do you think he would be saying about the likes of the Stanley Works corporation moving its headquarters offshore? It is absolutely mind-boggling why there is no public outcry over this issue. Is there no sense of decency in the corporate mentality?

    What is worse, how can our elected officials be silent on this wanton rape of the public trust? Can it be possible that they are getting dividends for their financing the cost of our elections tenfold?
    -- Jack Levine, Palm Harbor

    A duty to vote

    What a privilege it is to be an American citizen! Some of my good friends died in World War II, many others were wounded in defense of their country -- the grand old U.S.A. We all owe them the duty to vote!

    First educate yourself on what you need to do in advance of any election. Get properly registered. Learn how to use the voting machines. Go to your county clerk's office -- the people there will help you do this. Give yourself time for getting to your precinct and do the voting. If you are a U.S. citizen, get registered and vote. Let's stop the griping about the machines or the personnel at our precincts and learn how to vote. Absentee voters should all be properly registered and should learn what is necessary for their vote to take place. If you move to a new area, get registered and learn about your precinct and vote.
    -- Donald Koth, Largo

    Pleasant reading

    I want to thank you for your May 26 Travel section.

    My husband and I have just read the article by Mark Petty telling of his experiences traveling to his mother's homeland of Sicily (At home, at once, in Sicily). It is one of the most interesting articles we have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. Mr. Petty made the whole vacation he and his family took read as if we were guests, too.

    Thank you for this article and please convey to Mark Petty our thanks for a well-written and relaxing read.
    -- Esther Curless, Largo

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