Douglas asks FDA to allow Canadian drugs in VT

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas is asking the federal Food and Drug Administration to allow Vermont to set up a pilot program to make prescription drugs from Canada available to state employees.

Douglas also wants to use his gubernatorial website to educate Vermonters about the reimportation issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Douglas says he’s pursuing a three step strategy to help lower the cost of prescription drugs because Congress failed to include a reimportation provision in the Medicare drug bill that received final approval earlier this week.

The first step is to formally petition the federal Food and Drug Administration to allow state employees to purchase their prescription drugs from Canada.

Under this plan, the Vermont program would be established as a pilot project and a Canadian pharmacy benefits management company would administer the program.

(Douglas) I should note that I believe that reimportation is not a long term solution, but rather a way to bring Vermonters some short term relief. It’s also a way for us to put pressure for much needed national reform on those who make the policy decisions at the national level. Change in the prescription medicine marketplace is coming – it’s been brewing for years – but rather than sit around and wait, I think that we have to be moving ahead toward better deals for every Vermonter.

(Kinzel) Douglas also wants to use his gubernatorial website as a clearinghouse for information about reimportation.

Currently under the state employee health plan, participants can be reimbursed for any prescription drugs they buy in Canada but few people are taking advantage of this option.

Douglas wants to make more state employees aware of this opportunity but he acknowledges that the state has to walk a fine line with the FDA concerning the state’s advocacy for this program.

(Douglas) It’s tricky, because the FDA is still feeling its way in terms of enforcement of this law in the case of jurisdictions that have decided to go over the line, as I’ve mentioned in the past. I want to stay within the bounds of the laws that I’ve sworn to uphold, and that’s why we’re going to work with them and determine how far we can go.

(Kinzel) Douglas says the third element of his overall strategy is to continue to work with other governors across the country to urge Congress to pass a meaningful reimportation law.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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