Vermont researches imported drugs for state employees

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(Host) Attorney General William Sorrell is actively researching whether the state of Vermont can purchase prescription drugs from Canada for all state employees. If the plan is found to be illegal under federal law, Sorrell says the Douglas administration could consider challenging the law in court.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the past few weeks, a number of states and municipalities have indicated a strong interest in re-importing drugs from Canada for their employees because prices in Canada are often considerably lower than prices charged in this country. The Federal Food and Drug Administration has issued policy statements that strongly oppose these efforts on the grounds that re-importation is currently in violation of federal law and could provide consumers with unsafe drugs.

In Vermont, Governor Jim Douglas has asked Attorney General Bill Sorrell to issue an opinion on this issue. The Douglas administration wants to know if it’s legal for the state to purchase drugs in Canada for its state employee medical plan. Sorrell says he’s looking at arguments being presented by different states to support this effort:

(Sorrell) “Clearly there are states and municipalities that are very much on this track and with Republican governors and Democratic governors and different political parties in control who want to do, this different government units and other private groups. So if there is a legal means of doing it, one of another of these entities is going to come up with the compelling argument to be able to do it.”

(Kinzel) If the legal effort is not initially successful, Sorrell expects the battle will shift to the courts.

(Sorrell) “I think that we are going to see these kinds of initiatives carried out at state and local levels by a number of governmental entities over the next several months. And so if the federal government is going to be fighting, they’re going to be fighting in a lot of different courtrooms.”

(Kinzel) Sorrell hopes to reach a preliminary decision concerning the legality of providing state employees with drugs from Canada in several weeks.

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

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