“Drug prices have been rising too fast,” the Democratic mayor said in announcing the program. “We are pursuing importation as a way to help city of Boston workers and retirees access vital prescription drugs at affordable prices.”
Through the program, city employees and retirees will pay nocopayments or coinsurance for prescription drugs purchased through the plan. The voluntary pilot program is only available to the approximately 14,000city employees and retirees enrolled in the city’s Blue Cross Blue Shield health plan . Officials predict the program will save about $1 million in its first year.
Mayor Menino went ahead with the plan despite a federal prohibition on the practice and despite a meeting late last year during which Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials urged him to drop the proposal. The FDA contends that buying drugs from Canada is risky because their safety cannot be guaranteed.
In response to these concerns, Menino points to the contract between the city and Calgary-based Total Care Pharmacy Ltd. Under terms of the deal, TotalCare is required to meet specific quality standards, procedural safeguards, and levels of customer service.
Since last summer, the City ofSpringfield, Massachusettshas had a drug-importation program for city employees and retirees, which the city claimssaved $600,000 (See Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program ) . Similarly, New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson launched a state-sponsored Web site allowing consumers to hook up to a Canadian Internet pharmacy in April (See New Hampshire Goes Live on Canadian Drug Link Web Site ).
Details about Boston’s program are available at http://www.cityofboston.gov/publichealth/medsbymail.asp .