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Date Posted: 23:28:48 09/20/03 Sat
Author: Steve
Subject: Re: Drug storefront issue heating up
In reply to: Steve 's message, "Drug storefront issue heating up" on 23:27:03 09/20/03 Sat

Critics are wary of Illinois' drugs-from-Canada plan
By TERRY HILLIG
Post-Dispatch
09/19/2003


Gov. Rod Blagojevich's call for the legalization of prescription drug imports from Canada has some pharmacists in Illinois seeing red.

"I am totally against it," said Judy Weiss, chief pharmacist at Ostle's Family Pharmacy in Collinsville. "Any time you take your local pharmacist out of the picture, you risk running into problems with drug interactions and other things."

Weiss said interactions could occur when someone buys some medications at a local pharmacy and others from other sources. When pharmacists aren't aware of all of a customer's medications, they can't provide appropriate warnings, she said.

Blagojevich has written to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, asking the agency to drop its opposition to the importation of drugs from Canada, many of which are made in the United States but sell for significantly lower prices in Canada.


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The governor, trying to resolve massive state budget deficits, said lower drug costs would save taxpayer dollars. Illinois spent $1.8 billion last year on prescription drugs for 230,000 employees and retirees and the state's various health programs.

"If the federal government is not able to correct serious drug price disparities between the U.S. and the rest of the world, then it should give states the flexibility to pursue better prices on their own," Blagojevich said.

The governor also wrote to his 49 fellow governors, asking them to join in pressing for a policy change from the federal Food and Drug Administration, and said he would go to Washington next week to meet with FDA officials and to lobby for legislation to end the ban.

Canada and many other countries control prices on prescription medications, and they are typically much less expensive outside the United States.

Weiss said patient safety was not her only concern. She said she's "not real happy" with the prospect of Illinois communities losing tax revenue.

Officials of Illinois-based Walgreen Co., the nation's biggest pharmacy chain, also are skeptical.

"We concur with the FDA that there are safety considerations and concerns with ordering drugs from Canada," said Walgreen spokesman Mike Polzin. "I don't think those concerns can be dismissed so easily."

Mike Patton is a spokesman for the Illinois Pharmacists Association, which represents 1,800 Illinois pharmacies.

"We're concerned about the lack of regard for the elderly and retirees of Illinois," he said. Patton said some suppliers of drugs on the Internet pretend to be based in Canada when they're actually in other countries.

Weiss, the pharmacist in Collinsville, said the high prices paid by American consumers subsidized lower drug prices in other countries. She said she thought suits against drugmakers and the companies' massive outlays for advertising contributed to higher prices.

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