VT Suing FDA Over Drug Importation

August 11, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Vermont is suing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the federal agency rejected the state's drug importation plan.

The move by the Green Mountain state comes after the FDA sent a letter back to state officials this week denying their petition for a legal means of obtaining prescription drugs from Canada. Vermont had asked the drug agency in November to approve a pilot program under which the state would contract with a Canadian company that would take orders from Vermont residents and distribute the drugs by mail.

Under the proposal, the state would have initially imported drugs for current and retired state employees and their dependents. From there, the plan was to expand the plan to cover other state citizens. Vermont estimated the plan would save the state about 5% of the $18 million it spends on prescriptions for state employees and retirees.

Vermont’s petition was carefully crafted and reasonable. I am amazed that the FDA rejected it,” said Vermont State Attorney General William Sorrell, in a news statement. “I am looking forward to getting this in front of a federal judge.”

In the letter sent back to state officials, the FDA said the government could not ensure the safety of drugs from Canada and thus the plan was rejected. “The claims on which they’ve based this denial are, in our view, unsubstantiated, and we have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies available,” said Vermont Governor Jim Douglas.

While other states have proposed similar plans, and some have enacted them, Vermont would be the first to file a lawsuit against the FDA for rejecting a drug importation plan. In April,New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson launched a state-sponsored Web site allowing consumers to hook up to a Canadian Internet pharmacy in April (See New Hampshire Goes Live on Canadian Drug Link Web Site ). Similar Web sites are also in effect in Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin.