Gioia Rips State DOH For No 'Net Drug Price List
City Councilmember Eric Gioia blasted the state Department of Health last week for not listing prescription drug prices on the Internet so that consumers could learn where to purchase their medications at the cheapest price.
Gioia also disclosed that a survey of 139 pharmacies in all five boroughs had again shown wide discrepencies in prices for the same drug, A survey two years ago showed the same sort of discrepancies and led to a law requiring the state DOH to create the drug price Web site.
At a hearing of his Oversight and Investigations Committee last Wednesday, Gioia (D-Long Island City) declared: "What we have here is an inefficient market where information is not being provided to consumers. So what you have are incredible price fluctuations that we would not accept in any other area of life.
Cheaper medication can literally be right around the corner."
The recent survey of pharmacies concentrated on five commonly prescribed drugs: Lipitor (high cholesterol) Metformin (diabetes) Albuterol (asthma inhaler); Zoloft (anti-depressant); and Ortho Try-Cyclen (contraceptive).
Council Speaker Christine Quinn demanded that the state DOH immediately comply with the 2005 law that called for creation of a Web site with every pharmacy's prices listed as well as listing each pharmacy by ZIP code.
Quinn said knowledge is power and with the knowledge available through a Web site listing drug prices, consumers would have the power to buy at the lowest price.
Every consumer in the city is affected by this problem, but the 2 million New Yorkers not covered by health insurance or the Part D federal drug prescription subsidy plan are especially vulnerable and can use all the help possible in discovering where the lowest priced drugs are sold.
The council report pointed out that generic medications, which are exact copies of brand name drugs, but far less expensive, can help reduce many consumers' drug costs.
To take advantage of this fact, the council proposed working with the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to develop and conduct a public awareness campaign about the effectiveness and affordability of generic medications.
The council also said the DOHMH should be required to post prescription drug price information at all its clinics. The lawmakers also noted that only 58 percent of pharmacies post complete and current lists of drug prices as required by law, so pressure should be exerted on state agencies to assure that all pharmacies have these up-to-date lists.
INCREASE FLU VACCINE SUPPLY: The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it had approved a GlaxoSmithKline flu vaccine product called FluLaval for the 2006-2007 season, boosting the country's expected flu vaccine supply to about 115 million doses this year.
Licensed under the FDA accelerated approval program, FluLaval is available for people 18 and older, except those who are allergic to eggs and chicken proteins.
REGO PARK CENTER ACTIVITIES: The Rego Park Senior Center, at 93- 29 Queens Blvd., Rego Park, is offering a lecture on Aesthetic Realism for its members next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. In the afternoon, individuals with housing problems will be offered individual personal consultations with a housing specialist from 1 to 3 p.m. The programs are free and open to all seniors. For more information, contact Lynda Sinenko at 718-896-8511, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.