Douglas reconsiders position on drug re-importation

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’s now willing to consider a state drug re-importation law. Douglas says he’s no longer convinced that the approach would be in violation of federal law.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) For the past few years, Governor Douglas has supported the concept of re-importing drugs from Canada as a way to help lower prescription drug costs. But Douglas has opposed efforts to legalize the practice in Vermont because he believed it would be in violation of federal law.

Last year, Douglas asked the Bush administration for permission to launch a pilot re-importation program but the request was denied and the State filed a lawsuit over the issue.

Democratic leaders, with strong majorities in both the House and the Senate are eager to pursue a re-importation law and they’ve vowed to bring a bill to the governor’s desk by Town Meeting Day. Douglas says he’s willing to work with the Democrats on this bill because he’s now getting new legal advice:

(Douglas) “People in my administration have talked with folks in other states, gotten information from them, traveled to a couple of other states to see what they’re doing. The point at which the state is involved, the level of involvement and liability is really key to whether this is something that’s possible or not. So it’s not as easy as, ‘We’re for it, we’re against it.’ We need to work with our legal counsel, the attorney general, to see how far we can go.”

(Kinzel) Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Jim Leddy says it’s important for the Legislature to act on this bill as soon as possible:

(Leddy) “If we continue to wait and wait and wait for someone else to decide then I think that’s really not acceptable. So I would hope that we can work with Governor Douglas and send a clear and unified message on behalf of the people of Vermont that the status quo is unacceptable.”

(Kinzel) House and Senate leaders are hoping to hold a joint public hearing on the re-importation plan next week at the Statehouse.

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

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