Seniors run to the border for prescriptions

Thursday, June 19, 2003

If the sight of Americans crossing a border in search of cheap drugs seems like a movie cliche, think again. Tonight's "Frontline" report, "The Other Drug War" (8 p.m., PBS), begins with an account of Maine senior citizens on a bus trip to Canada to buy inexpensive prescription medication. These money-saving excursions have also served to radicalize many uninsured Maine residents who have become outraged by the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States. "I think it's disgusting," senior Carleen Simpson said. "Every country practically in the world gets drugs cheaper than we do."

As Congress enters a debate about a new Medicare prescription benefit for seniors, "Frontline" looks into the political tug-of-war between enraged consumers and major pharmaceutical companies. The one-hour documentary also covers the groundbreaking efforts of states like Maine and Oregon to control drug prices, often in the face of extreme lobbying efforts by drug manufacturers.

According to this documentary, as many as 20 states are contemplating programs to control drug prices. What "Frontline" does not discuss is the enormous clout drug companies have developed with the news media. As Congress debates reforms in prescription drug pricing, is it appropriate that virtually every commercial that sponsors network news is begging us to "ask your doctor" about some prescription drug we've never heard of? And how much does the high price of medicine go to pay for these confusing and annoying ads?

Given their druthers, most bears would prefer not to eat meat. They're omnivores and consume meat only when nuts, berries and other goodies are not available. That's just one nugget of knowledge offered on "Jack Hanna's Top Ten Grizzliest Bear Adventures" (7 p.m., Travel Channel). The well-known animal expert travels from New Mexico to the farthest reaches of Alaska to show off a variety of bears, whom Hanna considers "the most misunderstood animals on earth."

Tonight's other highlights

Late night

Sarah Jessica Parker and The Dead appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Lisa Kudrow, Mark Valley and Justin Timberlake on The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).