States Defy FDA on Rx Imports

Oct 06, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The states of Illinois and Wisconsin have launched a new program, I-SaveRx, to help residents without insurance buy cheaper prescription medicines from Canada, Ireland and the U.K.

In doing so, the states are defying a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation prohibiting the importation of prescription medicines. The FDA maintains the regulation is necessary to protect consumers.

Governors Rod Blagojevich of Illinois and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin see it differently. The two pointed out that residents of their states would now be able to obtain identical medicines from approved suppliers at up to 50 percent less than their paying in U.S. pharmacies.

Gov. Blagojevich said, people without insurance plans to help defray the cost of medicines will have the opportunity to save hundreds — and in some cases even thousands — of dollars each year.”

Wisconsin’s Doyle said he was not concerned about the prospects of being taken to court by the FDA. “I’m very comfortable with our legal position,” he said.

Even if the FDA does not take the states to court over the I-SaveRx program, the agency still has the means to complicate matters. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the agency is investigating I-SaveRx’s clearinghouse, CanaRx of Windsor, Ontario. FDA policy and planning chief William Hubbard told the newspaper, the agency sent a warning letter and started legal proceedings against CanaRx for illegally importing drugs into the U.S.

Moderator’s Comments: What are the implications of legal imports of drugs from overseas for U.S. pharmacies? How should the retail industry deal with
this issue?

The upcoming election could have a major impact on this issue. President Bush’s administration opposes allowing imports of prescription medicines while
Senator Kerry supports it.

George Anderson – Moderator

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