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Maine Workers to Get Canadian Drugs

City of Portland is the latest government entity to defy the FDA's efforts to stop the practice.

June 27, 2004|Ryan Lenz | Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Maine — City employees will have the option of buying some prescription drugs at lower cost through a Canadian company, officials announced last week.

Portland joins about three dozen U.S. cities and counties that get prescriptions through Ontario-based CanaRx, despite Food and Drug Administration efforts to stop the practice.

Last year, the FDA won court backing to shut down CanaRx's U.S. operations, forcing the company to operate from Canada.

"This program circumvents the safety mechanism that Congress set up almost 50 years ago. And we don't know anything about these products coming in," said Tom McGinnis, director of pharmacy affairs for the FDA.

Springfield, Mass., was the first U.S. city to work with CanaRx. Similar programs are in place or being considered by cities and counties in Vermont, Indiana, New York and Connecticut.

So far, the FDA has not gone after consumers who buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies, although it says it cannot guarantee the safety of drugs bought abroad.

Brand-name drugs from Canada can cost half the U.S. price because of Canadian government price controls.

The medications that Portland will pay for under its plan are only for long-term ailments such as high blood pressure or arthritis.

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