Burlington, VT Mayor Releases Plans for Drug Reimportation

December 17, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Burlington, Vermont's mayor has unveiled a plan to reimport prescription drugs from Canada for city employees by March 1, 2004.

Mayor Peter Clavelle said such a program could save between $100,000 and $200,000 a year out of a total of about $700,000 in prescription drug benefit costs. In order to entice the city’s 600 employees to enroll in the reimportation plan, Clavelle also said he would build an incentive into the program, the details of which are still being fleshed out, according to an Associated Press report.

The unveiling of the plan comes at a time when Burlington’s total health-care budget has increased at a double-digit annual clip, culminating in a total health-care budget of $4.8 million in 2003. So even though Clavelle’s spokesman Peter Mitchell admits the move is “testing the boundaries of federal law,” in an effort to save the city money, Mitchell said the plan is being rolled out in lieu of waiting for federal action to “do the right thing.”

Further, Mitchell pointed out that any claim that reimported drugs could be unsafe is a “red herring” because “these are US-made drugs.” As an additional failsafe, the program would be for maintenance drugs only, not for drugs to treat acute problems like infections, according to the city’s chief administrative officer, Brendan Keleher.

Clavelle is not alone is his quest for cheaper prescription drugs through Canadian reimportation. In October, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he was looking into buying prescription medicine from Canada for municipal employees. To get his program off the ground, Menino meet with fellow Bay Stater and Springfield Mayor Michael Albano to discuss how Springfield operates its Canadian drug-purchasing program, which has enrolled about 2,000 Springfield city workers and retirees and saved the city $600,000 (See Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program ).