Tax dollars not meant for political gain

By Ned Cantwell: state columnist

Stop what you are doing right now. Get a pad and pencil. This is important. What I am about to report will save you thousands.
Ready? OK, here goes: If you buy generic drugs rather than brand-name drugs it will be cheaper. A whole lot cheaper!

Listen, don’t lavish e-mail praise all over me. Just call your local editor and tell him the Columnist Guy just saved you some big bucks. Tell him you would like to pay in advance for a three-year subscription.
Want more? Here’s more. You can save $3,168 a year by purchasing the generic drug Leflunomide instead of the name-brand arthritis medication Arava and an additional $1,728 a year when prices are compared between pharmacies.

Not only that, but you can save $564 a year by purchasing the generic drug Omeprazole instead of the name-brand acid reflux medication Prilosec and an additional $792 a year when prices are compared between pharmacies.

I’d like to take credit for all this good information, but I can’t. It is the work of Attorney General Patricia Madrid who has sent out yet another “public service” mailing to pump up her campaign for Congress against Republican incumbent Heather Wilson.
Let’s look at the issues.

Issue one: First of all, is it a campaign mailing as I allege? Sure looks like one. Last week we described an earlier mailing from the AG’s office, one warning about Internet sex. That mailing, as well as the current puff piece, feature a large full-color picture of Patricia looking properly concerned for the citizens of New Mexico.

In the current mailing, Madrid reports on her 2003 drug price study, headlined by the startling fact that generics are cheaper. “Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Fighting to Keep Your Prescription Costs Down.” Is this a campaign pitch mailed at taxpayer expense? Of course it is.

Issue two: Suppose Madrid were not running and suppose this mailing had nothing to do with a political campaign. In a state where political corruption runs rampant, can’t the attorney general find something better to do than go shopping?
What did it cost for the AG’s office to run a check on drug prices in New Mexico and publish them in book form? And, why? The fact that generics are much cheaper than brand names is hardly hold-the-press news, and it is available from any number of sources. Hello, AARP?
Part of the AG’s office mission is consumer protection, so one can understand Madrid jumping in with both feet if price fixing or other corporate malfeasance were involved. But going around checking where you can get the cheapest Valium? Please.

My outrage may be misplaced. Madrid gets hugs and kisses from others for the same program I criticize. Her glossy, self-promoting brochure quotes Good Morning America: “Madrid is attacking drug costs by comparing prescription drug prices at pharmacies around the state.” And the Albuquerque Tribune: “New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid has created a plan to help people buy drugs at the best prices.”

Well, maybe, but what I need is a new car. Ford’s always reliable. Buick has some good rebates going. Hyundai is hot. I’ll just have to wait for a Pat Madrid mailing on car pricing. Unless she goes on to Washington and gets too busy. Then I guess I will just have to shop for myself.

Those who read Ned Cantwell’s column may need painkillers. Contact him at: