Mo. considers drug cost relief

Missouri would join two states that use the Internet to import cheaper drugs from abroad.
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:02 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY— Missouri is considering whether to join Illinois and Wisconsin in a new Internet program that will help residents buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe.

The I-SaveRx program, launched Monday, works through a Canada-based clearinghouse to deliver about 100 prescription medicines at claimed discounts of up to 50 percent off U.S. retail prices.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration opposes the reimporting of prescription drugs, saying it can’t guarantee the safety of drugs sold through foreign pharmacies. But the FDA hasn’t stopped states from setting up Internet sites to help consumers buy drugs through Canadian pharmacies.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent a letter Monday to the nation’s other governors, inviting them to join in the I-SaveRx program.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Holden said his chief of staff has been talking with Illinois officials about that possibility. Earlier this year, the Holden administration had opted against pursuing Canadian medicines. But the governor’s office is taking a new look at the issue because of the Illinois program, spokeswoman Mary Still said.

“We’re looking at safety issues,” Still said. “They’re trying to see if there are concerns with the FDA over this issue and if, in fact, it can provide good savings.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill, who defeated Holden in the Aug. 3 primary, said last week that she supported a state-sponsored Web site to link Missouri residents to cheaper medicines in Canada or the United Kingdom.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt has not proposed a specific Canadian drug program. He has expressed concerns about safety and the potential for violating federal law.

Several states, including Minnesota, already operate Web sites linking people to drugs from Canada, which often are cheaper because of government price controls. The I-SaveRx program offered by Illinois and Wisconsin goes further by including pharmacies in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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