Illinois Could Go to Court Over Canadian Drug Issue

April 9, 2004 ( - If federal officials don't respond to a state of Illinois request to be allowed to reimport cheaper prescription drugs from Canada within six months, the state now vows to take the matter to federal court.

>The vow of eventual action in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came as Governor Rod Blagojevich accused the agency of stonewalling the state’s December request to set up a pilot program for importing Canadian prescriptions for state employees and seniors, Reuters reported. “Today we’re taking a formal step that requires the FDA to respond within six months, or we can take them to court,” the governor said in a statement, according to Reuters.

>The state’s Democratic attorney general, Lisa Madigan, sent a so-called citizens’ petition to the FDA on Thursday, her aide said. The petition requires the agency to respond within six months, aides to the Democratic governor said.

>The FDA has said buying medicines abroad is risky and potentially dangerous, but federal officials are studying the issue and will report to Congress on the feasibility of such a system. Political pressure is building as governors, localities and elected officials from both parties say importation is a viable option to chase down escalating health care costs.

>North Dakota’s biggest health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield said this week it will now reimburse members for prescription drugs imported by individuals from Canada. North Dakota’s Blue Cross said it made the policy switch after a meeting with FDA officials, who clarified their position.

>Also the state of New Hampshire unveiled a Web site with a link to a Canadian pharmacy (See  New Hampshire Goes Live on Canadian Drug Link Web Site ).

Prescription drugs are at times discounted up to 70% in other countries, where there is greater government control over health care.