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September 19, 2003

Blagojevich calls on FDA to reverse policy on importing drugs from Canada
Enlists help of fellow Governors in fight for lower drug prices

CHICAGO – Taking the next step in his aggressive effort to secure lower drug prices for Illinois taxpayers and consumers, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today called on the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its policy that prohibits state and local governments from importing drugs from Canada, where prices are 30 to50 percent lower.


Blagojevich was joined by U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago) who has been the driving force behind legislation in Washington, D.C. that would permit re-importation of drugs from Canada.


“If the federal government is not able to correct serious drug price disparities between the U.S. and rest of the world, then it should give states the flexibility to pursue better prices on their own,” said Blagojevich at a press conference in Chicago.  “However, the FDA to date has refused to permit state and local governments to import prescription drugs from Canada.  That decision seems misguided, especially since the FDA permits private health plans like the AARP – to reimburse participants for doing the very same thing.”


Blagojevich made his appeal to the FDA in a letter addressed to Commissioner Mark McClellan, writing, “I know you have expressed concerns about the idea of state and local governments importing prescription drugs from Canada, especially in the case of the City of Springfield, Massachusetts.  However, the FDA does permit private health plans like the AARP to reimburse participants who purchase prescription drugs from Canada. 


“If the FDA believes that prescription drugs produced in Canada are safe for seniors covered by the AARP health plans, why would those same prescription drugs be unsafe for the people of Illinois?  Why can’t the people of Illinois – and people in every state – benefit from them?


“I respectfully request that you reconsider the FDA’s policy, and permit state and local governments to import brand name, FDA-approved prescription drugs – produced and imported in full compliance with FDA regulations.  Considering the fact that the cost of prescription drugs has become one of the most severe problems facing almost every senior, every business, and every taxpayer, exploring all of our options is the least we can do.”


In addition, Blagojevich sent letters to every governor in the country asking them to join him in pressing the FDA to change its position on Canadian drug re-importations.


“The high cost of prescription drugs is not a partisan issue.  It is a problem in every state.  It is an issue that affects every governor and every public official. In fact, two weeks ago, legislation in the Congress that would make purchases from Canada permissible passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, with 155 Democrats and 88 Republicans voting in favor of the bill,” Blagojevich pointed out.


“To date, the FDA has chosen not to permit state or local governments to import prescription drugs from Canada,” Blagojevich wrote.  “This is an issue that needs bipartisan support from Governors in order for us to at least have the option of exploring the issue, and the ability to potentially pass the savings onto the people of our states.”


“People from around the world come to America for medical care, yet Americans are forced to go across the border for affordable medications.  That’s wrong,” said Emanuel.


Today’s action builds on the Governor’s announcement last Sunday that he was instructing the state’s Special Drug Advocates to review and report to him on the feasibility and cost savings that could be realized if Illinois reimbursed its employees and retirees for drugs they purchase from Canada.  Illinois spent $340 million last year on prescription drugs for its 230,000

employees and retirees, and a total of $1.8 billion on prescription drugs for all the state’s health programs combined.


Next week Gov. Blagojevich will travel to Washington, D.C. to lobby for legislation that would allow importation of prescription drugs from Canada and to meet with FDA officials.



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