NASHVILLE, Tenn.: State defies drug companies, Bush

Tennessee joins a host of Midwest and New England cities and states openly defying not only the huge drug corporations but also the Bush administration.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, met with a delegation from CanaRx, the Canadian government agency overseeing prescription drugs, to work out a deal whereby Tennessee will purchase medications from the land of national health care at an estimated savings of $2.5 billion.

The governor’s action drew the attention of multinational drug company Pfizer, which reported profits of $59 billion, an increase of 46 percent, in 2003. Workers at Pfizer make Lipitor, Viagra and Zoloft, among thousands of products. Pfizer called to meet with the governor while the Canadians were in town.

In the wake of city and state actions to provide affordable medications for municipal employees and those on state-run programs, Pfizer retaliated against Canada. In early February, it cut off a few Canadian pharmacies and companies selling medications to U.S. residents.

The recently passed Medicare Reform Act forbids U.S. residents to travel to Canada to purchase medicine.

“Canada, Ireland, South Africa, France and others – they pay a price (for medications) that is one-third of what Americans pay,” said CanaRx President Tony Howard of Windsor. Howard was part of the group meeting with Bredesen. “Our biggest concern right now is Mr. Pfizer. Pfizer is threatening to cut off drug supplies to Canada. We hope America stands up and says, ‘You do that and you’re in deep doo-doo.’”

Pfizer spokesman Jack Cox let the Cat out of the bag, explaining why prescriptions are less expensive in Canada.

“People need to understand the reason drugs are cheaper in Canada is that it’s part of their socialized health care system,” he told the Tennessean newspaper. “The U.S. is the only country in the world where the market determines the price of medicines, not the government.”

WASHINGTON: U.S. marshals provide poor health care

There are 40,000 people, an increase of 43 percent compared to 1999, under the thumb of the U.S. Marshals Service awaiting trial on federal charges. These folks have not been convicted, not had their day in court, but are only accused of breaking federal law. They could wait days, weeks or even years for a court date. Meanwhile, they get sick.

Federal marshals rely on local jail physicians to provide prisoners with medical attention. According to a report released Feb. 23 by U.S. Inspector General Glenn Fine, people awaiting trial have died of appendicitis and tuberculosis.

Marshals spent $43 billion to treat prisoners using private health care facilities in 2002. One of the authors of the report, Benigno Reyna, added that few of the country’s 3,618 jails meet health and medical standards set by certifying organizations.

The report revealed that there is no system for tracking contagious diseases like AIDS or hepatitis among prisoners.

NORCROSS, Ga.: Fifth-graders create Black history museum

Peachtree Elementary School is a public school in the bedroom community of Norcross, Gwinnett County, near Atlanta. For Black history Month, fifth-graders researched and created a Black History museum and will serve as guides for their younger classmates.

“How do you explain to fifth-graders that there was a time 4 million people were slaves?” asked Maureen Taylor, one of the teachers working on the project. Her students delved into the history and culture of U.S. slavery and revolts for freedom and created an auction of human beings and depictions of uprisings.

“I like it; it’s just confusing sometimes,” said 11-year-old Kevin Sangston, who researched the life of John Brown, the famous abolitionist. “Miss Taylor … I told her everything I know, but she keeps asking for more.”

Gwinnett County, according the U.S. Census, has 676,000 people of whom 72.7 percent are white and 13 percent are African American.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (