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October 14, 2003

Blagojevich unveils on-line petition drive pressing FDA to reverse its policy on importing prescription drugs from Canada
Governor asks consumers to help put pressure on federal government to open access to lower priced medicines

Launches new website:  www.affordabledrugs.il.gov
CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced he is enlisting the help of American drug consumers in his effort to convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change its policy prohibiting states and local governments from buying FDA-approved medications for a lower price from Canada.  The Governor is asking consumers to fill-out an on-line petition in support of drug importation at www.affordabledrugs.il.gov.
“The FDA can ignore our letters.  They can ignore our calls.  But they can’t ignore the people forever.  And so today, I’m launching an electronic petition drive so that the people can be heard on this issue,” said Blagojevich. 
“If you think that you should be able to reduce your prescription drug costs – let the FDA know. Let the FDA know they can’t keep hiding behind the excuse of safety. Let the FDA know you want your prescription drug costs reduced.  Log on to our website at www.affordabledrugs.il.gov  – sign our electronic petition – and let your voice be heard.”
The on-line petition is part of a new website launched by the state today with information about the discrepancy between American and Canadian drug prices, the impact of high prices on consumers – especially the elderly, activity in Congress on the issue and recent editorials from
around the nation in support of drug importation efforts.  The site contains a price comparison chart where viewers can assess their potential savings if they were able to buy their prescription medications at Canadian rates.
In addition to the on-line effort, the Governor said petitions will be available in hard-copy at senior citizen facilities throughout the state, or can be requested over the phone by calling toll-free (866) 296-6322.
In September, the Governor asked the state’s two Special Advocates on prescription drugs to study and report to him on the cost-savings and feasibility of reimbursing state employees and retirees – and potentially enrollees in the state’s new senior citizen discount buying club – for drugs they purchase in Canada, where prices are significantly lower.  Illinois currently spends $1.8 billion a year on prescription drugs for all its health care programs combined, $340 million of that is just for state employees and retirees.
Last week the Special Advocates led a delegation of the administration’s top policy, medical and legal experts on a fact-finding trip to Canada.  The group met with executives from CanaRx, the company that administers the drug import program for the city of Springfield, MA, as well as pharmacists and executives from retail and online pharmacies and representatives from the Canadian government.  The delegation will use the information it gathered in the report it is preparing for Blagojevich on the benefits and challenges of importing drugs.
While he awaits the results of the Special Advocates’ study, Gov. Blagojevich has been lobbying the FDA and Congress to change current rules that prohibit state and local governments, pharmacies and consumers from buying prescription drugs from Canada.  Blagojevich pointed out the contradictory messages the FDA sends out on the safety of Canadian drugs, claiming imported medications do not meet up to U.S. standards and therefore will not be allowed to enter the American market, while at the same time looking away as more than a million individuals in the U.S. cross the border or send away to purchase their prescription drugs for significantly less from Canada.
“The FDA, to date, has refused to permit state and local governments to import prescription drugs from Canada.  They say we can’t do this because it may not be safe.  While they use that reason time after time, the FDA has yet to explain why they permit private health plans to reimburse their members for purchasing prescription drugs from Canada,” the Governor commented. 
“Either it’s safe or it’s not safe. If it’s safe, let the people benefit.  If it’s safe, stop doing the dirty work for the drug manufacturers, and start giving people the chance to save some money.  If it’s not completely safe just yet, instead of just throwing up your hands and refusing to deal with the issue, let’s work on finding ways to make it safe,” Blagojevich urged.
Blagojevich will deliver the petitions gathered from the website and partners around the state to the FDA to demonstrate the wide support for allowing states to find new solutions to the worsening crisis from high drug prices.
“If we make our voice heard – if we tell the FDA that we’re not going to just let them ignore the needs of tens of millions of Americans – if we demand that they stop protecting the interests of the big drug companies, then maybe they’ll start working for the interests they’re supposed to serve: the people,” the Governor added.
The Special Advocates’ report will be submitted before the end of October.


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