Illinois Program to Promote Imported Drugs

Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois has set up a plan to help residents order prescription drugs from Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom through a Web site and a toll-free phone number.

The program, expected to be launched in September, comes as legislative efforts to create a national drug-importation structure appear stalled. Several states have launched Web sites to ease purchases of prescription drugs from Canada, where they tend to be less expensive than in the U.S.
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A spokeswoman for the governor said that the three countries had very advanced and safe pharmaceutical systems. The state will inspect the pharmacies and wholesalers involved and expects to contract with a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) to establish a list of pharmacies and wholesalers in the three countries. The PBM would then enroll the state’s residents. The program would handle 100 of the most popular drugs that treat chronic conditions. The state would waive co-payments for its employees and retirees who use the program.

The FDA has questioned the safety of imported drugs, but it has not taken legal action against any of the states with importation Web sites.