22 December 2003 19:25 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich formally asked the US government Monday for permission to launch a pilot program to import less-costly drugs from Canada.
The state-run program would be the first of its kind in the US, Blagojevich said, and it would give the Bush administration an opportunity to monitor how a drug import program could work in the US. The program initially would be limited to state employees and retirees.
Blagojevich said: "Instead of pretending like the problem of the high cost of prescription drugs doesn’t exist, or that it will be completely solved through the Medicare bill, they can work with us to develop a prescription drug importation program that works."
In a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson, the Democrat Blagojevich said he has been encouraged by previous statements made by Thompson that indicated the US might be willing to approve a "small-scale demonstration project."
Under US law, it is illegal to bulk import drugs into the US without getting permission from HHS.
"We would like to work with you to design an effective pilot program that complies with the law," Blagojevich said in the letter.
The governor said that under such a program Illinois would develop a preferred drug list that details the drugs state authorities believe can be obtained safely from Canada. The list would include most brand-name drugs that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In an effort to diminish the safety concerns of regulators, Blagojevich said all drugs in the program would be dispensed in "manufacturer-sealed" containers. In addition, wholesalers and pharmacies involved in filling prescriptions would be licensed and regulated either by Canadian or US officials, the governor said.
Last year, Illinois spent more than $340m (Euro274m) on prescription drugs for its 230 000 employees and retirees, and a total of $1.8bn for all of the state’s health programs combined. Purchasing from Canada would cut prices on the same drugs now purchased in the US by between 30-80%, Blagojevich estimated.
"In the face of a state fiscal crisis, an economy that continues to falter, and the ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs, as Governor, I have no choice but to explore different options that can help the consumers and taxpayers of Illinois," Blagojevich said.
HHS did not comment on the letter on Monday.
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