Report Predicts Failure for Illinois Drug Importation Plan

November 4, 2003 ( - The savings for Illinois' Governor Rod Blagojevich's Canadian drug importation plan would in all actuality be marginal, while the increased risk from safety problems could possibly be severe.

That was the conclusion of the National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU) examination of the governor’s proposal to import or re-import prescription drugs from Canada for use by state government employees and retirees. The study found that using the most generous assumption from an October 2003 Congressional Budget Office analysis of national reimportation legislation, the most Illinois taxpayers could expect to save from the Blagojevich plan is $2.7 million annually, or 0.8%

This number stands in contrast to Blagojevich’s figures showing the state can save more than 16% of its annual share of drug costs through a Canadian drug-buying program. Overall, the governor’s forecast amounts to $90.7 million a year in savings for Illinois or $1,008 for a state employee or retiree who fills three prescriptions a month, according to a report on a study commissioned by the governor last month (See Illinois Gov Pushes For Canadian Drug Purchases ).

Of that savings, the state would see $56.5 million knocked off its total bill for employee prescription drugs that totaled $340 million last year. However, NTU says in all actuality, t hese paltry savings translate to a mere $0.99 per enrollee per month.

“This study shows that Governor Blagojevich’s political ploy for cheap pills is full of illusory savings and very real dangers to taxpayers and patients,” said NTU Vice President for Government Affairs Al Cors , Jr. “Officials in Congress or on the Presidential campaign trail who are planning to follow the Governor’s lead with a nationwide importation scheme should take a step back and consider the tremendous damage such a policy could inflict upon Americans.”

Further, NTU says the plan come at the price of severe safety problems. Citing data from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NTU’s report says Canada is becoming a dumping ground for “counterfeit or lower-quality” drugs from foreign countries that could be passed along to Americans. Further, “v irtually every shipment of prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies to consumers violates [US drug security laws] … such drugs are unapproved, labeled incorrectly, and/or dispensed without a prescription,” the FDA says as cited by NTU.

As an alternative, the NTU says Illinois could contain costs without risking patients, through “disease management” strategies that reduce non-drug health costs like hospitalization and surgery with long-term pharmaceutical therapies.

“Disease management is just one of the many options Governor Blagojevich and his colleagues on the national level can embrace, instead of big government schemes to import drugs from Canada,” Cors concluded. “The fiscal and medical health of Illinois citizens, and all Americans, is at stake.”

A copy of NTU Issue Brief 147, Planning to Fail: The Illinois-Canadian Drug Plan, is available at .