New Hampshire Goes Live on Canadian Drug Link Web Site

April 6, 2004 ( - Defying a federal ban on reimporting prescription drugs from abroad, New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson launched a state-sponsored Web site allowing consumers to hook up to a Canadian Internet pharmacy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the move, but stopped short of saying it would take any action, the Boston Globe reported. The FDA said Benson’s Web site is illegal and could provide an avenue for unsafe drugs to reach U.S. consumers. The visit by state emissaries to Canada in February, to review safeguards at an Internet pharmacy is not proof of safety, the agency said. It called the inspectors untrained and said their laboratory analysis was inconclusive.

”We have said repeatedly that we hope it never comes down to having to sue one of these states,” William Hubbard, FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning, told the Globe. ”It may come down to having to ask a federal judge to referee this situation at this point. Clearly, we believe these are illegal activities.”

Benson joins the governors of Minnesota and Wisconsin, who have also set up Canadian-drug sites while lawmakers in Massachusetts and other states are pondering setting up such a sites (See MN Governor Pulling Pension Fund Into Canadian Drug Fray ).

”To not look at Rx re-importation as a commonsense solution would be irresponsible,” Benson tells New Hampshire residents on the Web site, RxNew Hampshire. ”My administration will take the necessary steps to provide affordable healthcare.”

A link from the state site takes users to a separate site for an Internet pharmacy that operates in an industrial park on the outskirts of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The pharmacy is one of the largest in Manitoba, the province that has most aggressively encouraged growth in the Internet drugstore business, according to the Globe report.

Benson said in 2003 that he would set up a Web site with ordering information for Canadian pharmacies as an antidote to soaring U.S. drug prices. He decided to seek federal permission, which delayed the project, but quietly began laying the groundwork for a launch without permission.

Without identifying himself as governor, he used his own credit card to order six drugs from Canadian pharmacies. He then asked the New Hampshire state Board of Pharmacy and the state crime lab to perform a comparison with drugs from pharmacies in New Hampshire. The Canadian drugs got a clean bill of health.

”The pharmaceutical industry has balanced their books on the backs of seniors for too long,” Benson said in a statement Tuesday. ”They line their pockets through scare tactics and misinformation.”

Since last summer, the City of Springfield, Massachusetts has had a drug-importation program for city employees and retirees, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino plans to set up a program for a limited number of employees in July.