CHICAGO – Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago) today announced plans to expand the I-SaveRx prescription drug importation network to Australia and New Zealand. The expansion comes on the heels of a comprehensive study conducted by Illinois’ Prescription Drug Advocates into the safety and savings of prescription drugs in Australia and New Zealand. The advocates’ report, released today, shows that the pharmaceutical systems in the two countries are safe and could provide significant savings averaging around 51 percent compared to prices in the United States, which is even better than the savings available from Canada where the same medications cost 32 percent less than in the U.S.
"The I-SaveRx program is growing and building as more people find out that they can get the medications they need at prices they can afford from state-inspected pharmacies outside the United States. But as we build momentum, the drug companies and their allies are turning up the heat in Canada, which has been the primary point of purchase for millions of Americans. And unfortunately, as we saw just a few weeks ago, their tactics are having an impact there and the Canadian government is considering new restrictions on prescription drug exports. We’ve known for some time that a sound importation program can’t rely solely on Canada. That’s why we originally included the United Kingdom and Ireland, and why today we’re also announcing
plans to include Australia and New Zealand. We’ll keep working to ensure that people who are struggling to afford the medicine their doctors say they need have a safe option through I-SaveRx," said Blagojevich.
Beginning in the fall of 2005, I-SaveRx participants will have even more access to significant savings on some of the most common medications used to treat chronic conditions. A comparison of prices for 78 of the most-used prescription drugs in the I-SaveRx program found that prices in Australia are 51 percent less expensive on average than in the U.S, while the same medications from Canada are 32 percent less than in the U.S.
"This expansion of the highly successful I-SaveRx program will help even more citizens afford their prescription medications," Governor Doyle said. "This program helps give our citizens another safe, affordable option for their prescription medications at a time when the federal government has repeatedly refused to fight the drug companies."
"By expanding the I-SaveRx program to include Australia and New Zealand, we are giving Illinois families additional access to affordable prescription drugs at significantly lower prices," said Congressman Emanuel. "Importation is a safe and effective way to help save consumers and taxpayers from the rising costs of prescription drugs and I commend Governor Blagojevich on his efforts."
Following the same strict standards and procedures used to study Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom in 2003 and 2004, a team of experts from three State of Illinois departments traveled to Australia and New Zealand in February 2005 to meet with government officials, wholesalers, and pharmacists to determine if the I-SaveRx program could be safely expanded to those countries. The experts examined pharmaceutical manufacturing, warehousing, storage, and dispensing practices and compared them with those in the United States. They also closely reviewed the regulation and management of pharmacies and pharmacists, and conducted on-site inspections of several pharmacies in both countries.
The research team concluded that pharmaceuticals purchased from approved facilities in Australia and New Zealand are safe, effective, and more affordable than pharmaceuticals purchased in the United States. Safety standards in these countries met or exceeded those required by the State of Illinois. The Australian authorities and pharmacy regulators had no concerns with Australian pharmacies filling prescriptions under the I-SaveRx program. In New Zealand, however, the law is unclear about a physician’s ability to re-write a prescription for a patient he or she has not examined in-person. As a result, only prescription medications that are available over-the-counter (OTC) in New Zealand will be made available through the I-SaveRx program. Approximately 25 to 30 medications that are available by prescription in the U.S. can be purchased over the counter in New Zealand, including popular medications like Flonase, Clarinex and Atrovent.
Gov. Blagojevich launched I-SaveRx on October 4, 2004, with Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin. Since then, Missouri, Kansas and Vermont have joined the program. The program is available to all residents of participating states, regardless of age or income. More than 10,300 orders have been filled so far with average savings of 25 to 50 percent.
The I-SaveRx program was the first to establish a network of pharmacies that includes facilities across the Atlantic – and now across the Pacific as well. The I-SaveRx program has extensive safeguards built-in and includes thorough oversight of network pharmacies.
The new program connects users to the I-SaveRx administrative clearinghouse through the website or toll-free telephone number. The clearinghouse provides users with information on the list of medications included in the program, prices in each of the countries and enrollment forms and guidance. Consumers can enjoy one-stop shopping rather than contacting numerous pharmacies to gather information and compare prices.
Before ordering, new enrollees must mail or have their doctor fax a completed health profile form and signed prescription to the clearinghouse. Once the clearinghouse has received the prescription and health profile form, it conducts an initial scan for appropriateness using the same drug interaction software used in Illinois pharmacies. If the prescription passes the interaction test, it is then turned over to a network physician in the country from which the medication will be dispensed, who reviews and re-writes the prescription for a local network pharmacy. The pharmacy performs a final safety check to comply with local laws and regulations before dispensing the medication.
The I-SaveRx import program builds-in numerous safety measures to ensure the quality and safety of drugs dispensed. The list of available drugs is limited to those that are used for long periods of time, and that cannot spoil during the shipping process. Consumers can order eligible drugs for re-fill only, so patients and their doctors have had time to review for unanticipated side-effects or interactions. All network pharmacies agree to comply with Illinois pharmaceutical standards, and to only dispense drugs that are intended as domestic product in Canada, Ireland, the U.K., Australia or New Zealand – meaning the pharmacies cannot dispense prescription drugs from other countries that are not part of the program to I-SaveRx consumers.
For more information about I-SaveRx or to get enrollment information, visit www.I-Saverx.net or call toll-free 866-ISAVE-33.
The full Australian-New Zealand report can be viewed at www.I-Saverx.net.