Douglas won’t violate federal law on drug reimportation

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he won’t follow New Hampshire’s lead and immediately seek to re-import prescription drugs from Canada for Medicaid patients. The federal Food and Drug Administration is opposed to these efforts and Douglas says he doesn’t want to break the law.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The decision by New Hampshire’s Republican Governor Craig Benson to authorize his state to purchase drugs from Canada for prison inmates and Medicaid patients came as a surprise to Vermont Governor Jim Douglas. Douglas has chosen to take a different route on this issue. He’s petitioned the federal Food and Drug Administration to allow Vermont to re-import drugs from Canada as a pilot project.

To date, the FDA has indicated its strong opposition to efforts by several states and municipalities to purchase drugs from Canada – the city of Burlington is one of the groups considering this action. Despite FDA opposition, New Hampshire Governor Benson says his state will buy Canadian drugs as soon as possible to help lower state pharmaceutical expenses.

Governor Douglas, however, doesn’t want to challenge the federal government in this way:

(Douglas) “I think it’s important to respect the oath of office that I took to support the laws of our country as well as the state of Vermont. I’m very frustrated as all Vermonters are about the cost of prescription drugs and want to do what we can to alleviate them. We’re also I think the only employer in the state currently as state government itself that reimburses our employees for drugs that they buy in Canada or anywhere else outside of the United States. So we’re moving forward but we want to do it in a way that does not flaunt the laws of our nation.”

(Kinzel) Last week Douglas participated in a trade mission to Quebec and met with province premier Jean Charest. Douglas says the two leaders discussed the re-importation issue and that Charest expressed strong opposition to the proposal:

(Douglas) “He’s very concerned about the impact on his province. As we seek to grow greater ties, to increase our international trade, to develop relationships with respect to environmental matters, energy considerations, homeland security and border concerns, we have to look at the entire picture of our relationship with our neighbor to the north.”

(Kinzel) The Douglas administration hopes to receive word from the FDA concerning the state’s petition in the next few months.

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

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