Although you may think it's the pharmaceutical companies cleaning out your pocket books, it is also the pharmacies that have the high prices on prescription medications.

For Charlie Bell of Webster, it's not about the money. It's about what he calls a ministry. That is the founding principal of Bell's not-for-profit company, The Medicine Express.

After retiring from Xerox Corp. in 2001, Bell witnessed first-hand the cost of buying prescription medications without insurance.

His large number of prescriptions, from his cholesterol to his diabetes medicines, cost more than $5,000 a year to buy from local pharmacies -- and he has the bills to prove it.

That is why Bell began his company, to provide low-priced prescription medications to anybody and everybody. He even crosses the border into Canada to find cheaper medications.

"I'll take anybody that needs the help," Bell said.

He runs the company off of a budget of $100 each month that comes right out of his own pocket. But to him it is worth it because he now has clients coast-to-coast who are enrolled in his program. The process to enroll is a simple one, and that's the way Bell says he likes it — simple.

You log onto his Web site, download the forms, send them to Bell through the mail and he takes it from there. There are no fees attached and, if Bell can help, he will use his contract with pharmacies in locations such as Canada to get more affordable medications shipped to your door.

Bell has established contracts with doctors and pharmacies in Canada and now is establishing them in the United States. These contracts allow Bell and his clients to receive cheaper rates on the prescription medicines, but you have to go through Bell in order to get these rates.   

Kenneth Carroll of Webster says he has saved thousands of dollars during the past four years that he and his wife have been enrolled in Bell's program.

"This is tremendous for a guy like me who is retired and on a limited income," Carroll said.

But it has been an uphill battle for Bell every step of the way. He has gone through eight different pharmacists from different locations who have offered to help him in his quest, but in the end, he says, they have reneged on the deal.

"They get too greedy," Bell siad. "And all of a sudden the prices go right back up."

Three weeks ago, Bell signed a new contract with a local pharmacy that is a milestone for The Medicine Express.

Bell has been able to get the lowest prices for his own medication at a total of $271 for what would have cost him more than $5,000 a year from other local pharmacies.

"I have finally found an honest pharmacy after six years of hunting," Bell said. "That is all I have ever asked for."

The pharmacy remains confidential as part of the terms of the contract, because it would cause problems with other pharmacies, Bell said.

This renewed faith in pharmacies in the United Stated has kept Bell on his mission despite being on oxygen 24 hours a day. Bell said he still has faith that there will be more help on the way.

"I am not going to be around much longer  and I know my days are limited because of my sickness," Bell said. "But I know I've walked out of this life helping others."

Bell's next mission with his organization would be to help churches and small companies to set up their own programs similar to his own.

"It's not hard," he said. "I could teach them how and they can take it from there."

For more information about The Medicine Express visit www.meds-ex.com/home.shtml

Webster Post writer Tori Uthe can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 218, or at tuthe@mpnewspapers.com.