CHICAGO- On the heels of the Vermont Legislature’s approval today of a bill authorizing the state to join the I-SaveRx drug importation program, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich sent a letter to Governor Jim Douglas urging him quickly sign the legislation so Vermont residents can soon begin to enjoy significant savings on their prescription medications. I-SaveRx was developed by Illinois and is the first state sponsored program in the nation to allow residents to import prescription drugs from inspected and approved suppliers in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom at savings between 25 and 50 percent.
“In an ideal world, our leaders in Washington, D.C. would find a way to give all Americans access to better prescription drug prices on the world market. But in the meantime, states like Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas have taken the initiative to help our residents get the medications they need at prices they can afford. Now the men and women of the Vermont Legislature have taken action to give your residents access to affordable medications; I urge you to sign Senate Bill 49 and make Vermont our next partner in the I-SaveRx program,” wrote Blagojevich to his fellow governor.
Blagojevich launched I-SaveRx on October 4, 2004, and extended an invitation to other governors to join the program. Currently, the program is available to the residents of Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas.
Vermont’s Senate Finance Committee introduced Senate Bill 49 after the Food and Drug Administration turned down the state’s request to set up a pilot program to import prescription drugs from countries like Canada. Vermont’s Attorney General is currently in court trying to force the FDA to approve the program.
Under the I-SaveRx program, residents of participating states are able to purchase more than 120 name-brand, FDA approved medications used to treat chronic or long-term conditions from more than 60 pharmacies in Europe and Canada. Numerous safeguards are built in to protect patient safety. The program only applies to refills, giving patients and doctors at least 30 days to make sure a medication is effective before the patient can use the foreign, mail-order option. Enrollees are required to complete a profile of their medical history and must provide a physician-signed prescription before ordering. Every prescription – along with medical history information – is reviewed and approved by a network physician and pharmacist in the country from which the medication is being dispensed. Only prescription drugs made and approved for distribution in the countries participating in the program can be dispensed to I-SaveRx consumers, ensuring that drugs cannot be imported from other countries outside the network and then dispensed to I-SaveRx’s American consumers.
Illinois first began exploring the feasibility of drug importation in September of 2003 when the Governor commissioned a study on the pharmaceutical system in Canada. In the spring of 2004, the Governor expanded the review to Europe as well. Public health and regulatory experts from the State researched the pharmaceutical systems in Canada and Western Europe to determine if the systems were safe and if Illinoisans could realize significant savings by purchasing medications from foreign sources. In August 2004, the Governor’s prescription drug advocates released their final report indicating that – like Canada – the European prescription drug system was well-regulated and was able to provide the same medications available in the United States at much lower prices.
Residents of Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas can begin the enrollment process or get more information by visiting the website, www.I-Saverx.net, or calling toll-free, 1-866-ISAVE-33. The clearinghouse provides users with information on the list of medications included in the program, prices in each of the three countries and enrollment forms and guidance.