IL Governor Launches Electronic Petition for Cheaper Drugs

October 15, 2003 ( - Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is calling on the state's citizens to persuade the US Food and Drug Administration to reverse course on its opposition to importing cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

The Democratic governor announced the launch of an electronic petition drive as the state looks for ways to alleviate the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States. “I’m launching an electronic petition drive so the people can be heard on this issue,” said Blagojevich, according to a Reuters report.

The petition process will be conducted through a toll-free phone number and an Internet site – – to facilitate citizen participation in the process. Additionally, the Web site compares prices on prescriptions bought here and in Canada.

Blagojevich’s call to petition arms is the latest move by state and local officials to prod US regulators to take action on the issue. Earlier last month, Blagojevich directed the Illinois Special Advocate to draft a plan for buying prescription medications from Canada for as many as 240,000 state employees and retirees. He cited increasing prescription drug prices as the reason to look north, as Illinois was slated to spend $340 million on prescriptions for its workforce this year, a 15% increase from last year. “I am optimistic we will be able to save literally millions of dollars for the taxpayers and set a precedent other states will follow,” Blagojevich said.

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Should the move be ratified, Illinois would become the first state to pursue Canadian drug purchases for its workers. But that title might not be held for long, as other state governors area also considering the move that was initiated by the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts (See Iowa Looks To Hop on Canadian Drug Bandwagon , MN Governor Looks Up For Lower Drug Prices ).

Under the Springfield plan, the city entices its employees and retirees to take advantage of the voluntary system by waiving copayments on prescription drugs – currently ranging from $6 to $20 per prescription – for participants who place their orders though CanaRx Services Inc., an Ontario company that mails three-month supplies of prescribed drugs from Canadian pharmacies. Overall, this appears to be a small price to pay for the city that cites savings on drugs ranging from 20% to 80% and ultimately could put between $4 million and $9 million in savings back into city coffers (See Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program ).

The FDA though sees cracks in the system and said the stores violate federal law barring drug importation and pose risks that drugs shipped will be expired, counterfeit or mishandled.As evidence, the FDA points to a sting operation conducted earlier in the year in which the agency allegedly caught the supplier of Springfield’s Canadian drug shipments red handed in the improper handling of insulin, saying when the insulin arrived via regular mail, it was at room temperature, instead of chilled and delivered via overnight mail as it is supposed to be handled to ensure its effectiveness (See FDA Stings Springfield’s Canadian Drug Supplier ).