More States Are Exploring Canadian Rx Imports

Published Online: Monday, December 1, 2003

    The governors of Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois have directed officials in their states to explore efforts to lower prescription drug costs by reimporting pharmaceuticals from Canada. US pharmacies and drug manufacturers oppose these efforts, and FDA officials have denounced them as risky and illegal.

    Despite those concerns, the city of Springfield, Mass, already has begun buying cheaper prescription drugs from Canada as part of a voluntary program to reduce Rx costs for city employees and retirees. Both Gov Rod Blagojevich (D, Ill) and Gov Tom Vilsack (D, Iowa) are exploring similar approaches to lower drug costs for state workers and retirees in their states. In Minnesota, officials are considering an even broader approach under which lower-cost drugs from Canada would be made available to welfare recipients as well as to state employees.

    American Pharmacists Association leaders lashed out at state efforts to reimport Canadian drugs, calling these initiatives "short-sighted and dangerous." The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) put it even more bluntly in objecting to the Illinois proposal to buy Canadian drugs.

    "If the governor proceeds with the plan to purchase medications from Canada, he will be in violation of both federal and state laws," an NABP official warned. "Access to medications is certainly an important issue to US citizens and Illinois citizens, but endangering the citizens of Illinois is a serious concern that we have."

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