Golden State Ponders Canadian Drug Move

January 23, 2004 ( - If the number of state and local governments considering Canadian drug reimportant programs continues to grow, a larger vehicle will have to be used to fit everyone joining this popular but controversial bandwagon.

The latest to hop on was California where a bill unveiled Thursday by Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton would allow the state to consider north of the border pharmacies for the best price for prescription medicines, the Associated Press reported.

The Golden State’s Department of General Services buys drugs for the state’s correctional system and state hospitals, and could save as much as $30 million by buying Canadian drugs, which are cheaper because that country negotiates maximum prices under its national health care system.

The legislatures of seven other states have debated various plans to buy drugs from Canada, but none has passed. Two US cities – Springfield, Massachusetts and Montgomery, Alabama – have programs for buying Canadian drugs.

Federal law allows pharmacists and wholesalers to import drugs from Canada, but only with the approval of the secretary of Health and Human Services. Thus far, Secretary Tommy Thompson and the Food and Drug Administration have decided that importing Canadian drugs is too risky.

For Burton’s part, higher US drug prices are a result of lobbying by pharmaceutical companies. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t taken a position on the bill, spokeswoman Ashley Snee told the AP. However, the administration is concerned about quality control of imports, but also about “the growing cost of prescription drugs,” she said.