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Date Posted: 01:18:19 12/14/03 Sun
Author: Uma
Subject: Re: Canada: New Hampshire to put Canadian drugs mere click away for its residents
In reply to: Bennie 's message, "Canada: New Hampshire to put Canadian drugs mere click away for its residents" on 08:48:56 12/12/03 Fri

Business plan brings national debate home
By Susan Bush

Berkshire Eagle Staff

NORTH ADAMS -- Kurt Bricault's plan to open an Internet business that allows access to lower-cost Canadian prescription drugs and the Planning Board's decision whether to issue a permit for the business has delivered a nationally growing controversy to the city's doorstep.

Bricault asserts that his proposed opening of a Discount Drugs of Canada affiliate at 85 Main St. is legal. According to Bricault, his proposal is permitted under Federal Communications Commission regulations involving access to information on the Internet. Planning Board members have expressed concerns about the legality of the venture, and last Monday postponed a decision on Bricault's special permit application until January.

Last week, Bricault expressed dismay at the postponement, but the board said it wanted a legal opinion on the matter.

On Friday, The Eagle acquired a copy of a federal Food and Drug Administration "warning letter" sent to an RxDepot affiliate store before it was shut down. The business was halted by a temporary injunction issued by a federal circuit court judge in Oklahoma. North Adams Planning Board members have also acquired a copy of that letter.

The March 2003 letter was sent to a Lowell, Ark., affiliate, and described RxDepot as a "storefront operation" that sends U.S. prescriptions, credit card information, patient profiles and limited power-of-attorney releases to a Canadian pharmacy. The letter detailed the RxDepot prescription approval and delivery process, which was nearly identical to that used by Discount Drugs of Canada. According to the FDA letter, RxDepot's actions are a violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.

But the process is also remarkably similar to that being used by the self-insured city of Springfield to allow employees and retirees to purchase prescription drugs from Canada if they choose. The program was launched by Springfield Mayor Michael Albano in July and has not yet been stopped by the FDA.

In fact, Albano uses Canadian medications for his own family, including his young son who must use insulin daily. Albano's spokesman, Nick Breault, said Friday that since the plan was implemented, the city has saved about $1 million in prescription drug costs.

Springfield's fiscal 2004 prescription budget was set at about $18 million; Breault predicted that when the plan is fully implemented, savings could range from $4 million to $9 million. Those who obtain a 90-day medication supply at a city pharmacy have a co-pay of $10, $25 or $35, depending on the drug, Breault said, while those who acquire a 90-day supply of certain medications from Canada pay no co-payment.

"That's how much cheaper the Canadian drugs are," he said.

Bricault has said Northern Berkshire consumers could save between 25 percent to 85 percent on prescription costs by using his service.

In Springfield's program, called Springfield Meds, employees, retirees and qualified dependants submit information forms -- similar to those used by Discount Drugs of Canada -- to the program office. The information, including a physician-issued prescription, is forwarded to CanaRx, the Ontario company with which the city does business.

A Canadian doctor reviews the information, and if the prescription receives his approval, one of nine contracted Canadian pharmacies fills the order and ships the medication directly to the consumer, according to Breault.

So why hasn't the FDA shut down the Springfield program?

"We believe the Springfield program is in compliance with the FDA's own testimony before Congress," he said.

According to Breault, FDA officials have testified that people who travel across the Canadian border to purchase prescription medications or who use the Internet to acquire the medications "for personal use" will not be prosecuted.

"So, if it is OK for the general public, well, the mayor believes his plan does the same thing," Breault said.

In Vermont, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders began arranging "bus tours" with drugstore stops in Canada for that state's senior citizens some years ago. Sanders has not been prosecuted or otherwise stopped from organizing the junkets.

According to the FDA letter about RxDepot, Canadian drugs pose a health risk to U.S. consumers because the medications could be unapproved, counterfeit or contaminated, or have altered labels or contain incorrect amounts of ingredients.

But the FDA Web site's "enforcement report" for the week of Dec. 10 cites several examples of similar incidents in the United States.

For example, a specific lot number of 10 milligram Lipitor tablets, used for controlling cholesterol and manufactured by a Connecticut company, has been recalled because it is a "counterfeit product," according to the site.

Specific lots of a dentistry product that contains hydrochloride and epinephrine is also under recall because of "subpotent epinephrine ingredient." The product is manufactured in Delaware and has been distributed in the United States, Chile and Taiwan, according to the Web site.

And numerous recalls involving a slew of blood products are on the current list, ranging from using the donor blood of a person who reported a hepatitis A exposure to using blood "possibly contaminated with staphylococcus bacteria," according to the site. Many of the products are distributed nationally as well as internationally.

Breault said the city has received no reports of anyone becoming ill or injured because of using a Canadian medication.

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  • Drug sellers serving U.S. face pressure -- Doobie, 01:22:06 12/14/03 Sun
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