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Colombian drug cartels exporting cocaine underneath Valentine’s day flowers

The season before Valentine's Day is the busiest time of the year for Colombia's growers, when the 130,000 people employed at hundreds of flower farms work nonstop to ship some 500 million stems

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Cocaine
Powder drugs. Image source-Wikimedia Commons

Cocaine is probably the last thing most people think about when buying roses. But every year, police and growers in Colombia must work around the clock to make sure that the romance of Valentine’s Day isn’t spoiled by the drug, the nation’s other major export along with flowers.

As much as 330,000 pounds (150 metric tons) of flowers leave Colombia on 30-plus jumbo cargo planes daily starting in late January, presenting an opportunity for the country’s ingenious drug cartels to penetrate the frenzied, overworked chain of suppliers and stash drugs amid the roses.

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“Without a doubt we’re a target,” said Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian flower exporters’ association.

Security protocols that the flower industry developed with police begin the moment that refrigerated trucks carrying rose buds depart dozens of flower farms dotting the waterlogged savannah surrounding Colombia’s capital. Once the flowers are inside the airport, 100 police offices equipped with 15 drug-sniffing dogs and electronic scanners inspect each shipment.

Last year, police said they found almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of cocaine hidden in flower boxes.

“We have to guarantee that our flower exports aren’t contaminated by criminal gangs,” Col. Julio Triana said as he and his drug-sniffing Labrador retriever walked through the refrigerated warehouse where flowers are kept before being loaded onto cargo planes.

Colombia’s flower industry took off in the early 1990s when the U.S. Congress passed a law eliminating tariffs on goods from Andean drug-producing nations in a bid to encourage legal exports. That Colombia’s criminals now train their eyes on flower shipments as a way to smuggle drugs into the U.S. is a sign of just how much the industry has blossomed. It is now is the world’s second-largest cut flower exporter, after the Netherlands, and the top supplier to the U.S.

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The season before Valentine’s Day is the busiest time of the year for Colombia’s growers, when the 130,000 people employed at hundreds of flower farms work nonstop to ship some 500 million stems, mostly to the United States but other parts of the world as well.

“Right now there’s not a single rose available,” said Solano.

But with competitors from Kenya and Ecuador making inroads, the industry isn’t taking its leadership for granted and works hard to keep out smuggled drugs.

“It requires a big effort because if another country finds drugs they can ban flower imports from Colombia and that would be disastrous,” Solano said. (VOA)

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Researchers Find That Discount on Medical Drugs Can Make you Purchase Them More

The study used Canadian national pharmacy data from 2.82 million prescriptions for 89 different medications where brand-name drug discount cards were used and compared

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Discount
While Discount cards decreased some patients' out-of-pocket costs by 7 per cent on an average, the study surprisingly found that many patients who filled prescriptions using a card were worse-off financially as a result. Pixabay

Researchers have found that brand-name Drug Discount cards are leading to higher healthcare spending in Canada.

Brand-name drug discount cards — also known as co-pay cards — are coupons offered by drug manufacturers to encourage patients to use brand-name drugs even after much cheaper generics became available.

Despite often boosting savings for customers, the study’s findings published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal show that drug discount cards actually increased private insurer costs by 46 per cent and public insurer costs by 1.3 per cent, compared to patients purchasing generics instead.

“We know that generic drugs are equally effective for the vast majority of patients. Given that, I believe these cards are leading to unjustifiable increases in health care costs,” said the study’s lead author Michael Law from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

While discount cards decreased some patients’ out-of-pocket costs by 7 per cent on an average, the study surprisingly found that many patients who filled prescriptions using a card were worse-off financially as a result.

This wasn’t the case for all drugs, but in some cases patients could pay up to $10 more out-of-pocket when using a discount card.

The study used Canadian national pharmacy data from 2.82 million prescriptions for 89 different medications where brand-name drug discount cards were used and compared the costs of these prescriptions to matched generic equivalents.

Discount
Researchers have found that brand-name Drug Discount cards are leading to higher healthcare spending in Canada. Pixabay

The researchers said that patients, their clinicians and employers should be aware of the impact that brand-name discount cards have on the healthcare system.

For example, the increased costs to private insurers will likely be passed on to the patients and their employers in the form of increased insurance premiums.

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“Regardless of whether they hold insurance, patients should check the relative price between brand-name drugs with a discount card and the equivalent generics at their pharmacy,” said Law. (IANS)