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August 26, 2004

Gov. Blagojevich and U.S. Rep. Emanuel call on Pfizer to halt plans to deny Illinois residents access to affordable medications
Governor assails drug-maker’s effort to limit supplies in U.K.

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago) today called on drug-manufacturer Pfizer to stop its plans to deny Illinois residents access to its medications at significant savings.  The officials’ action came after they received notice from prescription drug wholesalers in the United Kingdom that Pfizer this week began an effort to change its contracts in order to stop British wholesalers from supplying drugs outside the U.K.
“Pharmaceutical companies have put the squeeze on consumers in Illinois and across the United States by making them pay the highest prices in the world for the prescription drugs they need to stay alive.  And now, as they see individuals and states like Illinois are successfully finding ways to find affordable prices for their drugs in other countries, they’re taking their anti-consumer tactics to rest of the world,” said Blagojevich.  “Pfizer’s action shows an utter disregard for the health of our citizens, and highlights the real motivation behind their opposition to prescription drug importation: enormous profits.”
Last week, Gov. Blagojevich unveiled a plan to establish a network of state-inspected pharmacies and wholesalers in the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland to provide approved prescription drugs to Illinois consumers at prices that are up to 50% less than in the United States.  The state’s network would be made up of suppliers that are already regulated and licensed in their respective countries.
Pfizer this week sent letters to wholesalers in the U.K. notifying them about a change in the company’s supply procedures for that country.  The company indicated that it plans to only supply its products to wholesalers that do business with patients or health professionals in the U.K.  For wholesalers that do not comply, the company will terminate their contract.  The Pfizer change may be contrary to the European Union’s Treaty of Rome, which provides for free movement of goods among EU-member countries.
Pfizer took similar action in Canada after a growing number of American consumers began turning to Canadian pharmacies to fill their prescriptions at savings of up to 80%.  At least four other drug companies - AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Wyeth – soon followed suit.
“Pfizer's actions in the U.K., on the heels of what they've done in Canada, strike me as ironic.  Pfizer is a company that espouses the free market, except when it comes to the price of their products.  Their actions underscore the need to pass importation legislation, and keep pharmaceutical companies from continuing to use American taxpayers and senior citizens as their personal piggy banks,” said Emanuel.
“We call on Pfizer and any other drug companies that might be contemplating new restrictions to focus their energy on developing and producing medicines that will make our world healthier, not implementing business procedures that deny Americans access to affordable drugs in a world market,” the Governor said.


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