Douglas wants to study NH drug reimportation plan

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas wants to send a group of state officials to New Hampshire to study their new prescription drug reimportation plan. But it’s unlikely that the plan will be duplicated in Vermont because the federal Food and Drug Administration says the New Hampshire initiative is illegal, and Governor Douglas has said he will not break the law.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) The New Hampshire plan allows consumers to purchase their prescription drugs from Canada through a direct link on a state website with an approved Canadian pharmacy.

New Hampshire officials says they’re satisfied the pharmacy meets all necessary safety requirements.

Douglas faces a dilemma – he wants Vermont officials to go to New Hampshire to see if the plan can be duplicated in Vermont.

But he’s also pledged not to break any federal laws and the FDA says the New Hampshire plan is in violation of the law.

Instead, Douglas has asked the FDA to give its approval to a limited pilot reimportation program in Vermont – and he sued the FDA when they failed to support the proposal.

FDA Deputy Commissioner William Hubbard says consumers should be concerned about using programs like the one in New Hampshire.

(Hubbard) “The simple fact of the matter is people are buying drugs from foreign countries that we know have an uneven quality, and therefore a given patient might get a good drug but another given patient might get a bad drug, and we think that that’s a bad outcome if people are being put at risk with unregulated products like that.”

(Kinzel) The FDA, to date, has not taken any legal action to stop a number of states that have established reimportation programs but Hubbard says that could change.

(Hubbard) “We have not taken any state to court thus far. We’ve been trying to educate governors about our concerns. Of course it could come down to a lawsuit at some point where we have to take a governor to court and try and get a judge to referee this thing.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he still wants to look at the New Hampshire program, although no date has been set for that visit.

The governor also says the FDA should either crack down on states with reimportation programs or leave them alone.

(Douglas) “The attitude of the FDA has been curious in this. If they really believe it’s unsafe for the American people I would think they have a responsibility to act and they haven’t. So I don’t really understand their view.”

(Kinzel) Reimporting drugs from Canada has become an issue in the gubernatorial race.

Douglas’s Democratic opponent, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle says he’s not concerned about the FDA’s legal threats. Clavelle has implemented a program in Burlington that’s similar to New Hampshire’s and he says he’ll establish a statewide plan if he’s elected in November.

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

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