Against the backdrop of an historic congressional debate on legislation to add long-promised prescription drug coverage to Medicare, FRONTLINE examines the battle between major pharmaceutical companies and American consumers fed up with paying the highest drug prices in the world.
Through interviews with consumers, legislators, scientists, top industry leaders and analysts, "The Other Drug War" examines the efforts of states like Maine and Oregon to control escalating drug costs in the face of strong opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. The program also explores the tension between the high cost of scientific innovation and society's need to keep drugs and health care affordable.
The launching point for this report is the story of how a group of frustrated senior citizens led the state of Maine into battle with the powerful pharmaceutical industry. Frustrated by the skyrocketing cost of their prescription drugs, hundreds of Maine seniors began organizing bus trips across the Canadian border, where they found they could purchase the exact same prescription drugs for a fraction of what they were paying in the United States. Having to make the journey was inconvenient enough, the seniors said; but it was when they learned that people in Mexico, Japan, Germany, and most other developed nations were also paying much lower prices for drugs invented in the U.S., that their frustration turned to outrage.
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