Illinois Becomes Fifth State to Import Prescription Drugs from Abroad

August 17, 2004 ( - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sidestepping federal regulator's objections, has followed through on previous assertions that he would allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Blagojevich had previously asked for a federal waiver to launch a pilot program to import prescription drugs fromCanada . After what he describes as ‘stonewalling’ by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Blagojevich helped organize a class action suit on behalf of senior citizens against the agency (see Illinois Could Go to Court Over Canadian Drug Issue ). With no response from the FDA, Blagojevich has decided to go ahead with his drug importation plan.

The program – which will be launched within a month – will allowIllinois residents to connect via Internet or a toll-free telephone number to price lists compiled from the three countries for 100 common drugs used for long-term or chronic conditions. To begin with, the program will be offered to almost one-quarter of Illinois ‘ 12.6 million residents, with 500,000 seniors being included. After this, the state plans to waive co-payments for state employees who opt to buy imported prescription drugs. Blagojevich believes that savings could be up to 50% when compared to domestic drug prices (see Illinois Gov Pushes For Canadian Drug Purchases ).

Illinois will be the fifth state to allow residents access to imported drugs — the others are Minnesota , Wisconsin , New Hampshire , and North Dakota — but it will be the first state to include countries in Europe .

The FDA has previously claimed that the safety of imported drugs cannot be verified, thus calling into question their acceptability forUS domestic use. Blagojevich, however, insists that drugs acquired through Canadian, Irish, and Great British clearinghouses and pharmacy benefits managers would be perfectly safe. He had previously sent a team to look at pharmacy and drug warehouse in Europe , eventually settling on allowing imports from English-speaking countries.

– Kip McDaniel