June 2002

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Sat., June 1 10:00 a.m.­3:00 p.m.

General and Regional GPs meeting.

Tues., June 4 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Board meeting at the office. All welcome!

Thurs., June 6 5:30-7:30 p.m.

SF Tenants Union, SAN and others host a fund-raiser to Save

Rent Control. 427 S. Van Ness, at the Housing Rights Committee.

Fri., June 7 7:00­9:00 p.m.

Memorial Meeting remembering Dr. Helen Levitov Sobell. San

Francisco Women's Bldg., 3543 18th St. Info: Sydney, 415/586-7338

Sun., June 9 3:00 p.m.

Health Care for All. Speaker: Dr. Quentin Young. 626 Pacheco.

All invited.

Sun., June 16 2:00 p.m.

Stern Grove Festival: Michelle Shocked: Afro-Chicano group

Quetzal. 19th Ave. & Sloat Blvd. Free.

Tues., June 18 12:30­3:00 p.m.

GP meeting to take up June 1 "unfinished business" and resolutions.

Sat., June 22 10:00 a.m.

Coalition to Save Public Health. City Hall, Public comment

on final budget.

Sat., June 22 10:30 a.m.­12:15 p.m.

OWL: "What Is Normal Aging?" Panel discussion with Harriet

Miller and Kathie Piccagli. Info: 415/989-4422.

Sun., June 23 2:00 p.m.

Stern Grove Festival: Toto La Momposina. 19th Ave. & Sloat Blvd. Free.

Sat., June 29 10:00 a.m.­noon

AARP General Meeting. Flood Building, 870 Market Street.

Sun., June 30 2:00 p.m.

Stern Grove Festival: Hip Hop Legends: Rennie Harris, Electric Boogaloos, et al. 19th Ave. & Sloat Blvd. Free.

Town Hall Meeting:

Why Prescription Drugs Are Skyrocketing and

What We Can Do About It

A record crowd jammed the Zeum Theater on Tuesday, May 21, to hear and contribute to a comprehensive discussion of the profiteering tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and its effects on the budgets and health of the needful public.

Timed to coincide with the gastroenterologists convention at the Moscone Center next to the Zeum, the meeting was sponsored by the Stop Patient Abuse Now! (SPAN) Coalition of 125 senior and consumer advocacy organizations. Tim Fuller, executive director of the national Gray Panthers (and SPAN's founder) was the major meeting organizer. Regional Gray Panthers, Senior Action Network (SAN) and other SPAN members joined in to sponsor the

Town Hall meeting and were enthusiastic about the efficiency with which Fuller et al. organized and carried out the whole affair.

Fuller opened the meeting under a large overhead screen that ticked off the billions that AstraZeneca is making every minute of the meeting on the about-to-elapse patent drug Prilosec. He then introduced a short video: "The High Price of Heartburn," which described the machinations of the pharmaceutical companies to make slight revisions to products to allow new patents on the variations and then discredit the generic product in order to fix the price of their latest version.

The British manufacturer, AstraZeneca, garnered $4.5 billion for its "purple pill" Prilosec from U.S. consumers alone in 2000. Although the primary patent for Prilosec expired in October 2001, AstraZeneca has used a variety of tactics to protect their monopoly profiteering, including filing suit against several generic companies and attempting to transition Prilosec patients to their "new and improved" (as yet unproven) drug Nexium. Historically, generic competition brings a price drop of 50% in the first year and up to 70% thereafter.

Using a plethora schemes, name-brand pharmaceutical companies are undermining the intent of the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act which sought to bring affordable drugs while encouraging research and innovation. The Gray Panthers and the 125­member SPAN coalition are bent on fighting for affordable drugs for those who need them and, after a rally in Denver plus this one in SF, they will go to other venues with the campaign toward achieving fairness in public health policy.

What Attendees Heard

The pharmaceutical tail is wagging the health care dog, declared Joyce Mills, R.N., about the cumulative side-effects of symptom-relief drugs added to other drugs.

Dr. Candy Tsourounis, UCSF School of Pharmacy, described the effect of direct advertising of the "purple pill" and how the public is misinformed (all acid blockers act the same way and Prilosec is not unique), Nexium is not FDA approved and insignificantly different from Prilosec and is probably prescribed at a stronger than appropriate dose. She described how prescribing doctors are bombarded with salesmen and free samples to get them and their patients hooked on Nexium, and how the drug companies' relentless campaigns contribute to the crisis in health care.

Mills agreed wholeheartedly and added the drastic effect of laying-off of medical staff to pay for drugs; the results of profit-driven not education-driven research and advertising; the subverting of good, balanced, informed medical care.

The panel discussion was followed by spirited questions and comments from the audience and finally, picketing in front of Moscone led by Shirley Bierly. Reported by Mitzi Raas

Switch Off for Savings

Excerpts from a report by Mark Martin in the SF Chronicle 5/24/02

Sacramento: Conservation-minded Californians will again have a chance to knock 20 percent off their electricity bills this summer under a program launched last year to help avert rolling blackouts.

Gov. Gray Davis announced he would continue the 20/20 program. Only residential electricity customers, not businesses, will be eligible for discounts if they cut their energy usage by 20 percent from that used in 2000.

State energy officials have predicted California will not face blackouts this summer even if residents and businesses only conserve half as much as they did last year. Still, the governor urged Californians to be vigilant in their power use. "California's energy challenge is not over," Davis said.

The Newsletter of the San Francisco Gray Panthers is published each month, and distributed free of charge to members and friends of this nonprofit organization.

Editorial Board: Rebecca Hirshleifer, Mitzi Raas; Publisher, Astrid M. Spector; Art Director, Fannie Biderman; Proof, Lurilla Harris; Circulation: Harold Greenblatt and Mary Francis Smith. Printed by Graffik Natwicks; Webpage design: Barry Simpkins

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