SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Rosemary Morgan has no qualms about breaking the law to save $330 a month on her prescription drugs. In fact, she sees no reason why all seniors don't do it.
"When it comes to the high cost of prescription drugs, I feel it's time for some civil disobedience," the 66-year-old breast cancer patient said Monday. "There's legality and then there's morality."
Morgan was one of a handful of panelists at the Jewish Community Center to tell seniors how they could skirt a federal law against importing drugs from another country by ordering them online.
Morgan says she pays $43 for a 100-day supply of tamoxifen when she gets the drug over the Internet from CanadaRX, a mail-order pharmacist based in Canada. If she bought the medication in the United States, Morgan says she'd pay $372 for the same amount.
All that's needed to order the drugs online is a doctor's verification. "If your doctor doesn't want to play, find another doctor," Morgan said.
The Food and Drug Administration is trying to crack down on people who buy mail order medicines from abroad. The government worries that such drugs may be unregulated.
But some seniors say they're not worried about that law when they're faced with high prescription costs, and blame drug manufacturers and the government for not doing more about prices.
"This is chutzpah spelled g-r-e-e-d," said Isaac Ben Ezra, a board member of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council and activist for lower drug prices. "What the drug companies are doing makes the robber barons of the 19th century look like they're Boy Scouts."
But drug manufacturers say costs are set in a competitive market, and the prices are driven by the need to develop new medications through expensive research and development.
Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said price controls will stifle drug research.
"We understand their frustration," Trewhitt said. "But they should target Medicare. Congress needs to expand drug coverage under Medicare instead of worrying about price controls."
The FDA, which estimates 2 million packages containing drugs — some approved, some not — enter the United States each year, fears people will be hurt by drugs that don't fall under its jurisdiction.
And some seniors have the same concerns.
David Goldstein, a 76-year-old from Springfield who pays $400 a month for the medication he and his wife take, says he wouldn't trust the quality of drugs coming from anywhere other than America.
And price controls are a bad idea as well, he said.
"This is a capitalist country," Goldstein said. "The notion for capitalism is that if you have money you live, and if you don't have money you die."