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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Wrong time to limit generic medications

I was very alarmed by the news that generic medicines may be blocked and replaced by higher-cost, brand-name medicines ("Cost of medicine could increase," June 17).

I am a heart patient, and I take eight medications and supplements. All are generic, except one.

My health care provider insists on generic drugs if they are available. And I believe this is the right thing to do; it saves me lots of money - money the big pharmaceutical companies do not get. So no wonder the drug firms are mad.

But do not feel sorry for the big drug companies.

Remember that when new drugs come to market, the drug companies get patents on them so that generic versions of that medicine cannot be produced or sold until the patent expires.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company can pretty much charge what it wants as it persuades every doctor in America to push these brand-name products.

But let's not forget who has to pay for the medicine in the end: The patient who is just trying to stay alive.

Frank P. Manganaro, Pasadena

The only question I had as I read The Sun's article "Cost of medicine could increase" was: Why is this even an issue in Maryland?

With every conceivable product, including food and gas, skyrocketing in price, the fact that the General Assembly is even entertaining the idea of legislation that would place a greater burden on Maryland families is utterly ridiculous - especially for prescription drugs.

I understand that pharmaceutical companies spend years and millions of dollars on research and development for drugs that eventually save and improve countless lives.

But where is the logic in producing these drugs if no one can afford them?

Our country has already priced more than 45 million people out of attaining health insurance. The number of Americans on Medicaid and Medicare continues to rise, and so do the costs of those programs to the American taxpayers. The cost of health care itself continues to rise faster than the rate of inflation.

And yet we're talking about a change that could make health care cost even more.

Does anyone else see a problem with this approach?

Exactly whom do our elected officials represent: the people or the pharmaceutical companies?

Dom Cirincione, Towson

The attempt by drug companies to limit the availability of generic drugs is nothing more than another expression of corporate greed at the expense of public access to health care.

The drug companies make huge profits by charging outrageous prices for prescription drugs, with the silent approval of lawmakers who let them do as they wish.

Now they want to go a step further, as The Sun has reported.

It is time for The Sun to investigate the contribution each lawmaker has received from these drug companies and make that information public.

Dr. Robert O. Kan, Baltimore

The writer is a retired orthopedic surgeon.

When I saw the headline "Cost of medicine could increase," I thought: How revolting are the lengths to which pharmaceutical companies will go to make money? And how disgusting that state legislatures, including ours, would consider passing bills that would make it harder and more costly for people to obtain prescription drugs.

People are having a hard enough time dealing with health care costs today, and the greedy people running these drug companies want to make it even more expensive for us?

I understand that pharmaceutical companies have to make money. But medication is a necessity, not a luxury, and it seems criminal to me that the drug companies can charge the obscene amounts that they do.

Janet Brock, Fallston

Minimum wage puts teens out of work

Unfortunately for young people, one of the prime causes of the declining summer job market for teenagers is mandated wage increases ("Easy solution: Hire your own kid," June 17).

According to economist David Neumark, for every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, employment for high school dropouts and young black adults and teenagers falls by 8.5 percent.

In the past few years, Maryland's minimum wage has increased by almost twice that amount. And the minimum wage will jump another 6 percent this summer.

You don't need a business degree to understand why such wage increases affect teen employment.

The classic summer jobs - such as cashier, waiter and grocery clerk - can help an employer who has increased business or a need to cover for full-time employees taking vacations or sick leave.

But when government mandates add to labor costs by artificially boosting wages, employers are more likely to hold off on hiring people to fill such flexible slots.

Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Washington

The writer is an economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute.

Dixon deserves credit for her work

To this city resident's mind, Mayor Sheila Dixon has proved to be a fantastic mayor ("State raids mayor's home," June 18).

This started even before her mayoral tenure, when she refused to play the counterproductive council-president-vs.-mayor game that had wearied citizens so much in past city administrations.

Then, during her first days as mayor, she gathered together diverse, top-notch advisers and, without fanfare, began her steady work.

She has developed impressive teamwork with her colleague, City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake.

She's been visible but not self-promotional, passionate but not contentious, and she has gotten results.

I am grateful for her work and hope state investigators will give her and Baltimore residents a break for the greater good of the city.

Carolyn O'Keefe, Baltimore

New fee for drinks goes way too far

OK, we're not allowed to bring our own drinks onto an airplane. I accepted that. But now we may not get a free bottle of water unless we show signs of dehydration ("Soon, no free drinks if you fly US Airways," June 13)?

I certainly hope all the flight attendants are well trained to recognize those signs, since free water will only be given at their discretion.

Patricia Stilwell, Baltimore

Are pay toilets next cash cow?

The airlines are missing the boat as they search for creative ways to enhance revenue ("Soon, no free drinks if you fly US Airways," June 13).

What they really need to do is put coin locks on all the toilets.

That's a golden opportunity to squeeze more money out of their passengers without actually raising fares.

Steven Levy, Timonium

Future looks bleak if Rosewood closes

The writer of the letter "Closing Rosewood will open new doors" (June 13) is to be congratulated for having the good fortune to get her 25-year-old, profoundly disabled son placed into a house that he will share with two other disabled men.

But she candidly admits that her son is "among the lucky ones: Many people are waiting for such community supports."

So why would adding the entire patient load at Rosewood to the system's burden help make such community supports become available?

Here in Baltimore, and in all of Maryland, appropriate placements are few and far between, with long waiting lists.

The Sun has been following the case of unlicensed group homes in Baltimore. These homes exist because there are often no other places for their residents to go except the streets.

The families protesting the closing of the Rosewood Center know the outlook for their loved ones is bleak if the center closes. They are trying to make what they consider to be the best choice for their loved ones - to allow them to remain at Rosewood.

If a patient is being well cared for, is content and is likely to be well served at Rosewood, I, for one, refuse to accept that this state can't extend itself financially to help the most vulnerable of us.

I thank the Lord that my children do not need this kind of placement. But I shudder to think that Marylanders are measuring their compassion with their wallets instead of their hearts.

Karen Hening-Speedone, Baltimore

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