North Dakota Looks to Canada for Prescription to Drug Costs

November 26, 2003 ( - In an effort to cut costs from the state's budget, North Dakota is considering turning to its northerly neighbor to buy prescription drugs for public employees and retirees.

The North Dakota Public Employees Association passed a resolution to urge the state to put together a Canadian drug-purchasing plan. “We need to look into it and figure out how it would work,” Governor John Hoeven said, according to a TK report. “I believe American citizens should be able to buy drugs in Canada.”

Further, the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) is scheduled to take up the idea of a Canadian purchasing plan at its next meeting. PERS handles health insurance benefits plans for state agencies, retirees, and some counties, cities, and school districts. The state health plan provides coverage for about 12,000 public employees and retirees, as well as their families.

Continuing down this road will only embroil North Dakota in the middle of a roiling debate over prescription drug costs. North Dakota will join Illinois, Minnesota, and other states (See Illinois Governor Says Proof Is in the Canadian Drug Plan Pudding , MN Governor Brings Canadian Drug Buying Plan to the Streets ) on the front lines of a growing rebellion against the high cost of prescription drugs. Joining the states there are the mayors of Boston, New York City and Springfield, Massachusetts (See Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program , Big Apple Mayor Wants to Harvest Drugs From Canada ) who have all offered up similar proposals.

While cities and states see this as a viable alternative to high prescription drug prices, the USFood and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly raised questions about the safety of drugs brought from Canada and other countries. Among the agency’s concerns is the inability to ensure the safety of the products due to the potential for counterfeit drugs, drugs kept beyond their expiration dates, drugs not approved for use in this country and drugs from other countries shipped into Canada and then elsewhere (SeeFDA Stings Springfield’s Canadian Drug Supplier).