IL Residents Back Governor's Drug Buying Plan

January 13, 2004 ( - Nearly three-quarters of Illinois residents are behind Governor Rod Blagojevich's plan to ship in United States-manufactured drugs from Canada.

In what Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff calls “commensurate with what we’ve seen,” 73% of respondents to a Copley News Service poll of 625 registered voters in Illinois said that they support Blagojevich’s plan.

Blagojevich’s plan calls forthe state to buy prescription medicine from Canada for as many as 240,000 state employee and retirees. The governor says by implementing this plan, the state stands to save more than 16% of its annual share of drug costs. Overall, that amounts to $90.7 million a year in savings for Illinois or $1,008 for a state employee or retiree that fills three prescriptions a month (See Illinois Governor Says Proof Is in the Canadian Drug Plan Pudding ).

However, the court of public opinion does not hand in the final verdict on the fate of such a program, and Blagojevich realizes that without proper approval his plan may run into more legal hurdles than he can clear. Last month, the governor asked federal officials to designate his state as the first to be federally approved for a drug reimportation program. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Affairs Director Tom McGinnis said that the agency’s response to Blagojevich’s letter requesting permission to reimport drugs “is in the mail,” which nixes the governor’s request. “There is no such thing as a waiver for a pilot program under Medicare. [Blagojevich would] be breaking federal law,” McGinnis said.

Illinois is not alone in its endeavor.In recent months, a steadily growing roster of governors and mayors have increased pressure on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow state and municipal governments to do what some older Americans have been doing on their own for years: filling prescriptions in Canada, where regulations make prices 30% to 50% lower. Even as FDA officials have reiterated their worries about the safety, security and reliability of the practice, lawmakers in some Midwestern states and in Northeastern cities, including New York (See Big Apple Mayor Wants to Harvest Drugs From Canada ), have publicly discussed strategies for pursuing the idea.