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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2006

Governor Blagojevich calls on President Bush to reverse FDA’s stance on prescription drug importation in order to give U.S. citizens access to global marketplace
The governor applauds federal government for stopping seizure of prescription drugs from Canada and for approving Homeland Security spending bill, increasing access to affordable prescription drugs for U.S. seniors and working families; Recent Wall Street Journal poll shows 80% of Americans support drug reimporation

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to President Bush, applauding the federal government for its decision to stop seizing prescription medications mailed from Canada and for approving the Homeland Security spending bill that allows citizens to bring up to 90-day supplies of prescribed medicines home from Canada. In the letter, the Governor urged the President to reverse the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s position on providing U.S. citizens with access to the global marketplace.  A recent Wall Street Journal Poll shows that 80% of Americans support the concept of prescription drug reimportation, and yet the FDA refuses to offer U.S. citizens global access to safe and affordable medicine.
 
“Both actions recognize how important affordable prescription drugs are to senior citizens and working families across the nation, but there is still more work to be done to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable medicine at the same affordable prices that the rest of the world enjoys.  As more and more Americans support the concept of prescription drug reimportation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still refuses to re-evaluate its position and give U.S. citizens access to the global marketplace.  I urge you to reverse their position,” Governor Blagojevich wrote in his letter to President Bush.
 
A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal on September 15 showed that 80% of Americans support allowing people to import prescription drugs, and 4 out of 5 Americans agree that the law banning pharmaceutical imports is intended to protect drug companies' profits.
 
Blagojevich wrote, “For decades, pharmaceutical companies have put the squeeze on consumers across the United States by making them pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.  There is no excuse for putting people’s health at risk just to protect drug companies’ profit margins.  While halting the seizures of medicine from Canada is a good start, by keeping the global marketplace closed to American consumers, the FDA is still forcing most consumers to pay artificially high prices for prescription drugs purchased in here the United States.”
 
In October 2004, Governor Blagojevich launched the I-SaveRx drug importation program to provide Illinoisans a safe and affordable way to purchase many of the most common name-brand prescription drugs from pharmacies in Canada and Europe, where they cost up to 70 percent less.  The program is available and intended for senior citizens and the uninsured, and covers the citizens of Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri and Vermont. 
 
“In Illinois, we created I-Save Rx to help consumers save 25-80% percent on the cost of safe, name-brand prescription medications purchased from approved pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.  We know that the FDA has seized and tested approximately 1% of the prescription drugs imported through I-Save Rx and has never found fault with any of the medications,” wrote Blagojevich.
 
In September 2006, the Governor announced an expansion of the I-SaveRx program, which will be in operation by Spring 2007.  The program’s expansion will allow Illinois to reduce its annual prescription drug costs and reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, co-payments for state employees and dependents (currently, co-payments on brand name prescription drugs for those in the state’s health insurance range from $20-80).  The expanded program for employees will be voluntary. Employees who choose to fill eligible prescriptions through I-SaveRx will pay a reduced co-payment, or no co-payment at all.  Currently, participants in the State’s health insurance programs pay anywhere between $20-80 in co-payments for brand name prescription drugs, depending on whether the drug is on the state’s formulary. If the prescription is for a maintenance drug, the patient is allowed only two retail fills, then they are required to use mail-order, or else they must pay $40 retail for a formulary drug and $80 retail for non-formulary.  The co-pay for mail-order is lower, $40 for a 3-month supply of a formulary drug and $80 for a 3-month supply of a non-formulary drug.
 
Over the last five years, Illinois has seen its prescription drug costs increase by an average of 15% per year, far outpacing the cost of Medicaid, which increased in Fiscal Year 2006 by just 1.4% -- the sixth lowest increase in the nation.  The same prescription drugs that are sold in the United States are available at prices up to 70 percent cheaper outside the United States.  For example, Prevacid, a name brand medication used to treat heartburn and acid reflux, costs 64 percent less in Australia than in the U.S., 55 percent less in the United Kingdom, and 44 percent less in Canada. 
 
Below is the text of the Governor’s letter to President Bush:
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
I am writing today to applaud the federal government for its decision to stop seizing prescription medications mailed from Canada, and for approving the Homeland Security spending bill that allows citizens to bring up to 90-day supplies of prescribed medicines home from Canada. 
 
Both actions recognize how important affordable prescription drugs are to senior citizens and working families across the nation, but there is still more work to be done to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable medicine at the same affordable prices that the rest of the world enjoys.  As more and more Americans support the concept of prescription drug reimportation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still refuses to re-evaluate its position and give U.S. citizens access to the global marketplace.  I urge you to reverse their position.
 
For decades, pharmaceutical companies have put the squeeze on consumers across the United States by making them pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.  There is no excuse for putting people’s health at risk just to protect drug companies’ profit margins.  While halting the seizures of medicine from Canada is a good start, by keeping the global marketplace closed to American consumers, the FDA is still forcing most consumers to pay artificially high prices for prescription drugs purchased in here the United States.
 
In Illinois, we created I-Save Rx to help consumers save 25-80% percent on the cost of safe, name-brand prescription medications purchased from approved pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.  We know that the FDA has seized and tested approximately 1% of the prescription drugs imported through I-Save Rx and has never found fault with any of the medications. 
 
For the past four years, the federal government has consistently sided with the drug manufacturers in keeping the marketplace closed and forcing consumers to pay artificially high prices.  Now, we’ve reached a turning point by stopping the seizure of safe medication, but we can do even more.  It is time for the FDA catch up with the rest of the world, reanalyze their position, and ensure that Americans have full access to the competitive global marketplace for prescription drugs.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Rod R. Blagojevich
 
Governor


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