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Illinois to launch drug reimportation program

Illinois to launch drug reimportation program

Ignoring warnings from the Food and Drug Administration, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday announced that his administration is launching a program within the next month that will help state residents purchase cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, The Washington Post reports. Price caps in those countries make prescriptions medications significantly cheaper than the prices charged in the United States. Some anti-HIV medications, for example, sell in other Western nations for less than half of the American price. The program will be the first in the nation that expands drug reimportation efforts beyond Canada; Illinois officials said they included Ireland and the United Kingdom in the program because of efforts by pharmaceutical companies to limit shipments to Canadian pharmacies that ship drugs to U.S. consumers. Four other states--Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wisconsin--have established Web sites to help state residents buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies. The Illinois program, which is accessible through a Web site and a toll-free telephone number, will allow residents with a prescription from an Illinois doctor to purchase 100 of the most common prescription medications to treat illnesses and diseases. Medications that require refrigeration and drugs to treat pain are excluded. Illinois will contract with a Canadian pharmacy benefits manager to connect Illinois patients with more than 35 pharmacies and wholesalers. State inspectors will visit each of the participating pharmacies and wholesalers to ensure the quality and safety of the medications. "We have taken every possible step we could think of to convince the FDA, the Congress, and anyone and everyone who will listen that people across Illinois, and across our country, deserve access to safe and lower-cost prescription drugs," Blagovich said in a statement. "The federal government has failed to act. So it's time that we do." But William Hubbard, FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning, told the Post that the program "sounds like yet another expansion of an effort to import unapproved drugs from foreign countries that will be illegal under U.S. law and will raise serious concerns on the part of the FDA." Hubbard wouldn't comment on whether the FDA plans legal action against Illinois, but he said it may be possible that the agency would ask a federal judge to rule on the legality of the program.

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