Illinois to Set Up a Program

From the WSJ.

In the latest salvo in the battle over cheaper, imported pharmaceuticals, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he will set up a program to help state residents order prescription drugs from Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom through a Web site and toll-free phone number.

The Illinois arrangement is more ambitious than Web sites offered by Minnesota and other states. Illinois plans to contract with a pharmacy-benefit manager to establish a list of pharmacies and wholesalers in Canada, Ireland and the U.K.

The move 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 exchange rates and government price caps tend to make them less expensive. In a related effort, officials in Vermont recently threatened to sue the Food and Drug Administration for rejecting their bid to create an importation program.

Meanwhile, there appears to be little progress toward legislation that would establish any national drug importation regime. Though some bills were unveiled in the Senate, none has gathered much momentum.

It seems to me these re-importation schemes may be the only way to break the status-quo hammerlock that financial interests and politicians have on our health care system. The dilemma is that the US is a rich, captive population for development of expensive health care products. But the public clearly is in favor of punching some holes in the hermetic seal around the US that shields providers from competition elsewhere. If we can import drugs from other countries, why not import medical supervision? I don’t think getting stuff from Canada is the best solution, but at least the determination of the public to have some alternatives may shake things up. With fewer and fewer people having access to covered care and with care practically bankrupting patients and employers, there’s less and less to lose.