Long puzzled us that Gov. William Donald Schaefer...

IT HAS

April 29, 1993

IT HAS long puzzled us that Gov. William Donald Schaefer, man who understands gimmickry and likes to send the public strong messages, hasn't put Maryland's highway signs to greater strategic use.

We were reminded of this by a recent Associated Press story reporting that signs welcoming motorists to Delaware will no longer tell them the name of the governor.

Instead, the signs will tout the state as the "Home of Tax-Free Shopping."

According to Gov. Thomas Carper, who unveiled the new signs recently, millions of motorists who enter Delaware each year "have no idea there's no sales tax. This is an inexpensive way to do it," the governor said.

While another Maryland neighbor to the north, Pennsylvania, doesn't tout its lack of sales tax on clothing, its signage is more aggressive than Maryland's in attempting to control speeding.

One sign often seen in the Keystone State is a list of speeding fines. (i.e., 56-60 mph -- $92.)

Another sign depicts a state trooper with his finger pointed sternly ahead . . . "Slow down . . . This means YOU." It mightn't make you feel you've got a friend in Pennsylvania, but it probably gets results.

What does Maryland have? A benign "Thanks for coming." "Visit again." A few Black-Eyed Susan signs.

Maryland has some of the heaviest-traveled stretches of highway on the East Coast. We're not advocating more billboard clutter, just a little more signage imagination. We had to run to war-torn Kuwait to drum up business? What's the matter with more effective use of the asphalt marketplace we have whizzing through here daily?

* * *

HERE'S another piece of anecdotal evidence illustrating that the high cost of prescription drugs often has little to do with the amount of money spent on medical research and experimentation.

A colleague recently went to his family doctor with some muscular distress.

The doc examined the poor fellow and suggested an anti-inflammatory drug. He then went to a closet and pulled out a box of orange, black and white plastic pill containers. There were eight of these distinctive bottles.

To the patient's surprise, the doctor warned him that the package would last for only eight days. Take one in the morning and one at night. Each bottle, he explained, contained only two pills.

Just two pills?

Yes, the doctor said.

That's why drug prices are so high. A drug firm's advertising and promotional expenses can run up the bill for patients to astronomical levels.

All those plastic bottles also clog up the environment, and our landfills.

What a waste. And what a wasteful cost.

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