Friday, December 26, 2003

From the Chicago Daily Herald:
Win doesn't mute drug industry's woes
Pharmaceutical company executives breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Medicare reform bill excluded two ideas they abhorred: imports of low-priced drugs and government price controls.

Industry lobbyists had swarmed the capital before the bill's late-year approval, pressing aggressively against both measures. They emerged victorious - but it doesn't mean they can relax. The issue of prescription drug costs will rage into 2004.

No sooner did the reform pass than the movement for legalizing imports from Canada gained some key new allies, including the state of New Hampshire and the city of Boston, which have plans to bring in drugs for public employees.

From the Detroit News:
More opt for Canadian drugs
For a year, the city of Montgomery, Ala., has been quietly saving money on its employees’ health insurance costs — with a little help from Canada.

Although New Hampshire, Boston and Springfield, Mass., have grabbed headlines over programs aimed at helping residents buy drugs from Canada, Montgomery beat them all.

“Quite honestly, we’ve not sought attention on this,” said Jeff Downes, executive assistant to the mayor.

The program — a voluntary part of the city’s health benefit program for city employees and retirees who wish to get their drugs from a Canadian pharmacy — began last December and will save the city $400,000 to $500,000 in its first year, Downes said.

From the Fairmont (Minn) Sentinel:
FDA: It would be too difficult, costly to legalize
In the international mail facility at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, packages of confiscated prescription drugs are stacked floor-to-ceiling.

The thousands of such illegal mail-order drugs stopped at America's entry points, however, are but a small fraction of the multimillion-dollar business that federal regulators are struggling to control.

As millions of Americans turn to Canada for cheaper prescription drugs, the Food and Drug Administration's top pharmacist said Tuesday that it would take hundreds of millions of dollars to set up a legal, safe program to import the medicines.

And despite growing pressure from Congress, he insisted the FDA would never rely on Canada's safety assurances for the drugs shipped out of that country, many of them made in the United States.

From the Salem (NH) Observer:
The cost of good health
The rising cost of prescription drugs has prompted several states to look into ways to reduce drug price tags for their employees, lower-income residents and senior citizens. Recently New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson announced he would create an online portal for the state’s residents to access cheaper Canadian drugs through the Web.

However, federal and state pharmaceutical authorities are questioning both the legality and safety of importing drugs from outside the United States.

For seniors, the question is less one of legality and safety than dollars and cents.

“The bottom line to them is every dollar that goes to prescriptions is one that they don’t have,” said Patti Drelick, Ingram Senior Center executive director.

Reputable pharmacies say they use the following safety and service standards:

• Display the pharmacy's license number and name of the authority that granted it. Canadian pharmacies are licensed and regulated by the College of Pharmacy in each province. Consumers can call them to verify pharmacies' status.

• Require patients to provide a doctor's prescription, which will be reviewed by a Canadian doctor as required by Canadian law. (Sites that say prescriptions are not needed are risky.)

• Require patients to submit details of their medical history.

• Provide the pharmacy's mailing address and a telephone number that patients can call to speak with a pharmacist or ask questions about the service. (Sites that allow only e-mail contact are suspect.)

• Explain differences between American and Canadian drugs and labels and why some medications are not sold.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
State plans Web link to Canada pharmacies
Defying the federal government, Gov. Jim Doyle announced Tuesday that he will create a state Web site to help people in Wisconsin buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

The move comes despite a threat from the Bush administration that the federal government could sue states and cities that take such actions.

"The federal government is doing everything to stop people from getting affordable drugs," Doyle said Tuesday.

He said the drug companies "are getting their way" in Washington, D.C., on the issue.

Doyle said the Web site would help direct people to "reputable" online pharmacies in Canada that follow standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

From the Boston Channel:
Canadian Drug Programs Planned Despite FDA Warnings
Massachusetts leaders are not taking President George W. Bush's threats of legal action seriously for buying prescription drugs from Canada.

NewsCenter 5's Janet Wu reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly predicted the White House will "huff and puff, " but it will be all wind and no action.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he's ready to import prescription drugs beginning July 1 and the latest threats from Washington won't stop him. "They can't send us all to jail, that's for sure. There are two Republican governors, the mayor of Boston. The problem is why doesn't the FDA work with Health Canada?" Menino said.

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