Gail is a thyroid cancer survivor who also suffers from asthma and a permanent bronchial condition that requires her to take asthma and COPD prescriptions in addition to hormone replacement therapy prescribed by her endocrinologist. She’s on a fixed income of $32,000 a year in the San Francisco Bay area and must also rent out two rooms in her home to help cover the cost of her medical care. Gail is covered by Medicare but is forced to order her prescriptions from a Canadian pharmacy because she can’t afford U.S. prices.
“I don’t bother even to try and get it in this country,” says Gail, who is an active advocate with a group called Raging Grannies, which fights for environmental and social justice issues, including health care transformation. “I can get it for $81 a month but if I get it here it that would wipe out my entire annual benefit and that’s just one of the five or six drugs I take.”
Ordering from Canada is a complex and time-consuming process requiring numerous email and telephone communications to get her prescriptions filled properly – sometimes taking as long as a month – but she doesn’t have a choice. “There are other drugs I can order by mail for less than the copay. I would be spending a ton more on medication if I were living solely on my pension,” Gail says. “I would really be up the proverbial creek, it would be really, really hard.”