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Illinois Plans to Tap Into European Pharmacies

August 18, 2004|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Tuesday that the state would set up an Internet network within the next month to help Illinois residents buy prescription drugs from Canada, Ireland and Britain.

Other states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, already have websites to help residents buy drugs from Canada, but Illinois is the first to tap into pharmacies in Europe.

Blagojevich has been a leading figure in the push to allow the purchase of prescription drugs from outside the United States. Prescription drug imports are banned by the federal government, but Blagojevich and others believe they should be allowed at a time of skyrocketing prices for medicine in the United States.

"We have taken every possible step we could think of to convince the FDA, and convince the Congress, and anyone and everyone who will listen that people across Illinois, and across our country, deserve access to safe and lower-cost prescription drugs," Blagojevich said. "The federal government has failed to act. So it's time that we do."

Prescription drugs are often cheaper in Canada and other countries because of government price controls. For instance, a three-month supply of Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, that costs $214 in the United States can be bought for $144 in Ireland, $158 in Britain and $162 in Canada, he said.

The Food and Drug Administration is against allowing prescription drug imports because it says it cannot guarantee the drugs' safety.

Federal officials earlier rejected an Illinois request to set up a program to buy drugs from Canada. The governor's new plan would be an "aggressive expansion," and the drugs to which it would allow access would be illegal and unregulated by U.S. agencies, said William Hubbard, FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning.

"He should be personally liable if these drugs come into the United States and kill somebody or make somebody sick," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Blagojevich all but challenged the federal government to take legal action. "I frankly think if we were taken to court a discussion of this in a courtroom might actually be helpful and might actually move this cause forward," he said.

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