Boston Mayor Pushing Ahead With Canada Drug Buying Program

December 19, 2003 ( - Boston's mayor, undeterred by the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) warnings to the contrary, will continue with plans to import prescription drugs from Canada for city employees and retirees.

Mayor Thomas Menino met with FDA officials this week who tried to dissuade him from pursuing his plan, pointing the safety concern and the potential for the city being exposed to liability from such a plan. Even though Menino said the meeting ended on a cordial note, he disagreed with the FDA on most points, according to a Boston Globe report.

“If we don’t get relief from the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, we have to go someplace else, and that someplace else is Canada,” Menino told the Globe.

Menino’s defiance is not totally unexpected. When announcing his original plans to launch a Canadian prescription drug buying program (See Boston Mayor Considers Pushing Canadian Drugs ), Menino said he would “very seriously” consider a move like that undertaken by fellow Bay Stater and Springfield Mayor Michael Albano if the government does not change the rules. However, Menino said he would much rather travel the “legal importation” route. ”We have some staff people right now working on this whole issue,” he told the Globe in an earlier report.

Continuing down this road though will only embroil Beantown in the middle of a roiling debate over prescription drug costs. He would join mayors Albano of Springfield, Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Peter Clavelle of Burlington, Vermont (See Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program ,Big Apple Mayor Wants to Harvest Drugs From Canada, Burlington, VT Mayor Releases Plans for Drug Reimportation) and the governors of Illinois, Minnesota, and other states (See Illinois Governor Says Proof Is in the Canadian Drug Plan Pudding , MN Governor Brings Canadian Drug Buying Plan to the Streets ) on the front lines of a growing rebellion against the high cost of prescription drugs.

However, unlike the other municipal plans floating around, Menino says any import program he launches would have provisions to protect neighborhood pharmacies from foreign competition. Further, a Boston plan could only be undertaken in conjunction with a broader federal initiative to bring down domestic prescription costs, such as reconsidering tax incentives and research subsidies for drug manufacturers, Menino said.

Meninoand FDA officials said they agreed to meet again to offer comments as Boston’s plan takes shape, but an FDA official said the agency remains skeptical that Menino can fashion a program acceptable to the government. “We can’t see in our mind where a city or a state can design a program that can provide safe and effective drugs from illegal foreign sources,” Peter Pitts, FDA associate commissioner for external relations told the Globe.