States seek savings from drug importationposted Tue, 18 Sep 2012
Across the country, local governments are struggling to keep budgets in check despite ever-rising healthcare costs. Frustrated by the lack of help from the federal government, cities and states are searching for creative solutions to the problem. Some see personal drug importation from licensed international pharmacies as a solution.
Last week brought some bad news for both Maine’s residents and the state’s coffers. A state employee drug importation program that was expected to save $3 million per year was nixed. The MaineMeds program was only a few months in, and had already saved $500,000. Despite this, Maine’s Attorney General (AG) ruled that CanaRx, the Canadian company supplying the prescriptions, was in violation of state law since it isn’t licensed in Maine.
A similar program has been running for city of Portland employees—saving the city $3.2 million over the past 8 years. It’s disturbing that the AG would choose to suddenly stop a money-saving program in these tough economic times. We’ve already heard from a concerned Portland resident. Thankfully, individuals can still quietly import their personal medications but he’ll need to search out a new pharmacy and hope that the new FDA regulations that threaten importation are slow in being enforced.
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer just initiated a state employee health clinic that is anticipated to save his state $100 million over the next five years. Part of Schweitzer’s proposal involves a pilot program to allow Montana to import drugs from Canada for its state employees. A longtime proponent of personal drug importation, Schweitzer has appealed to the Obama Administration for permission to import in the past without success. We admire the governor’s persistence. It’s refreshing to see leaders who are dedicated to doing what is right for cash-strapped constituents, rather than bowing to industry pressures.
So far, there’s no word from Secretary Sebelius about Schweitzer’s importation proposal. We do not expect a positive reply, but it’s interesting to note that when Sebelius was governor of Kansas she was one of several governors to approve I-Save Rx, a drug importation program that unfortunately never got off the ground.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to put pressure on Secretary Sebelius. If drug importation is safe for Kansans, why isn’t it safe for all of us?