Clement tours the upstate in Senate campaign

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   MOUNT CARMEL -- Like most Americans, Tennesseans are paying more than double for prescription medication than consumers in Europe and Canada, according to a study commissioned by U.S. Rep. Bob Clement, D-5th.
   "The same drug companies, the same drugs," Clement told citizens at the Mount Carmel Senior Citizens Center Friday morning. "Tennesseans are either subsidizing the cost of drugs in other countries or drug companies are gouging Americans with the high prices."
   The eight-term House representative unveiled the drug cost survey during a weekend swing in Northeast Tennessee to talk up his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who is not running for re-election.
   Clement's survey randomly selected pharmacies in eight Tennessee cities.
   The survey requested prices of five popular prescription drugs -- Prilosec, Prevacid, Celebrex, Lipitor, and Zocor -- and compared their prices with prices in five foreign countries and Canada.
   "If you went to Johnson City or Kingsport or Bristol and filled all five of these prescriptions, then you would pay $481.55. Filling the same five prescriptions in Canada would cost $233.87," said Clement who called the drug price disparity "scandalous."
   The surveys were conducted by the Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
   Average prices in Johnson City for Prevacid were $122.99 compared to Canadian price of $48.62, according to the survey. The prescription prices were for a one-month supply of each drug.
   Clement also said he supported prescription drug benefit to each Medicare beneficiary with low deductibles and catastrophic coverage for people with high drug bills.
   "We are up against powerful, moneyed interests," said Clement. "We need to bring about fairness and fight for the consumers and we need to bring some change and reforms now, not later."
   Clement made stops in Johnson City and Greene County on Saturday. He is one of five Democrats seeking the party's nomination in the Aug. 1 primary.
   If nominated, his Republican challenger come November could be either former Gov. Lamar Alexander or fellow House member, U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, R-7th, who are seeking the Republican nomination.
   Clement's resume includes over 30 years of military service in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, plus private sector experience as an owner in a real estate investment group and a marketing and management firm.
   He has also served on the Tennessee Valley Authority's Board of Directors and as president of Cumberland University.
   The son of popular and colorful three-term Gov. Frank Clement said his decision to run for Senate came from his desire to have more influence on hot topic issues such as Medicare reform, education, national security, and transportation.
   "I could've run for re-election in the 5th District, most likely unopposed," he said, "but to me, it seemed like a natural progression to run for Senate. I wanted to do more for the people."