CHICAGO – In a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich today urged the Canadian government to adopt stronger rules for on-line and mail-order pharmacies rather than banning prescription drug exports altogether. The Governor pointed to safeguards built in to Illinois’ I-SaveRx prescription drug importation program as requirements that help doctors better understand patients’ conditions and needs.
“Rather than take drastic action that would unnecessarily harm millions of people, I urge you to consider instead strengthening your regulations to ensure Canadian doctors have the information they need to safely co-sign or re-write prescriptions for American patients,” wrote the Governor.
“Two million Americans are currently acquiring much needed prescription drugs from Canada, and by doing so, they avoid having to make the choice between their medicine and their next meal. When our citizens can get access to the medications they need at prices they can afford, they can live healthier and more productive lives.”
Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has recommended a plan to stop Canadian exports of prescription medication, citing concerns that Canadian physicians do not have enough information to adequately determine whether a prescription for a patient they haven’t examined in-person is appropriate.
Gov. Blagojevich pointed out that during more than a year of research into the savings and safety of prescription drug importation, his health and regulatory experts have worked out a process under the I-SaveRx program that could serve as a model for Canadian regulators.
“In order to ensure that doctors working with the I-SaveRx program have the information that they need to re-write a prescription, I-SaveRx program participants must fill out a detailed health history form. Furthermore, prescriptions can only be filled through I-SaveRx if the participant has been taking that medication for at least 30 days, and their licensed U.S. physician writes an original refill prescription. With these provisions, doctors and patients can be assured that only the appropriate medications are dispensed through this program,” the Governor stated in his letter.
“Should you choose to change the Canadian regulations, I would urge you to require detailed health history forms be filled out by non-Canadians purchasing drugs from Canadian pharmacies by mail order, and only allow refill prescriptions to be filled for export. With these changes, you could address the concerns raised by your health Minister, Ujjal Dosanjh, without cutting off an absolutely critical supply of affordable drugs for millions of Americans.”
Blagojevich launched the I-SaveRx program in early October 2004 along with Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin. Since then, the states of Missouri and Kansas have joined I-SaveRx. Residents of the four states are able to purchase approximately 150 of the most common name-brand medications used to treat chronic conditions from state-inspected and approved pharmacies in Canada and the United Kingdom. Retail prices in those countries are 25 to 50 percent less than in the United States.
Frustrated with inaction from the Bush Administration in helping Americans find relief from the highest drug prices in the world, Gov. Blagojevich and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle yesterday co-signed a letter to the President urging him to use the full diplomatic influence of the United States to discourage Canada from restricting Americans from purchasing safe, affordable prescription medications.