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Who Drugged ALA?

A May 28 press release on the ALA site advises us that ALA and Walgreens are “partnering” to “bring Medicare information to libraries.”

Although corporate partnerships can play a positive role for ALA, it concerns me that the Walgreen “partnership” places ALA (and participating libraries) in the role of uncritically promoting the Medicare Drug Discount Card Program, the “informational” campaigns for which, political pundits have pointed out, are thinly-disguised endorsements for the Bush administration. Passage of this program was so controversial that AARP lost thousands of members, many of whom fled to the Alliance for Retired Americans. The New York Times recently devoted a Sunday magazine article to the topic of prescription drugs for seniors (“Grumpy Old Drug Smugglers,” 5/30/04), noting both the limitations of the new program and the increasing dissatisfaction of seniors with the American pharmaceutical rip-off.

The ARA Web site comments, “by all reports the drug cards are not delivering the promised savings, or the political victory, many had hoped for. Savings are not materializing, and reports show that double-digit increases in drug prices have wiped out any discounts through the cards.” The ARA also offers extensive analyses on the problems with this drug program.

We can quibble about whether “all reports” indicate the drug program doesn’t help the typical senior, but we can’t argue that this is a controversial issue. If ALA is truly concerned about access to high-quality, objective health information for America’s citizens, then it should refrain from “partnerships” that turn us into one-sided mouthpieces (serving Bush reelection efforts, no less), and instead focus on promoting information on all sides of this complex issue.

And while we’re at it, why not organize drug-buying trips to Canada for retired librarians–perhaps in “partnership” with the ARA, or with one of the states organizing these trips.

N.b. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much research to learn how much money Walgreen had pumped into the Medicare Drug Discount Card Program. How much did we get for our “partnership”–and was it really worth it?

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