updated 8/11/2004 11:55:00 AM ET 2004-08-11T15:55:00

Vermont says it will become the first state to sue the Food and Drug Administration for denying its request to import prescription drugs from Canada.

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“Vermont presented a legal and responsible plan to import prescription drugs,” Gov. James Douglas said in a statement Tuesday. He said the FDA’s reasons for rejecting the state’s request for permission “are unsubstantiated and we have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies available.”

Douglas had long rejected suggestions that the state set up a drug importation program without FDA approval.

But in a letter responding to the FDA’s rejection, Michael Smith, administration secretary for Douglas, wrote that the administration found itself “forced to consider development of a reimportation program that conforms to our interpretation of the current laws, independent of your agency.”

Smith replied to a letter from William Hubbard, the FDA’s associate commissioner for policy and planning, which denied a request the state made last December for an exemption from the ban on drug imports. Hubbard wrote that the FDA is “very concerned about the safety risks associated with the importation of prescription drugs from foreign countries.”

Hubbard said Tuesday that the FDA was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs Service and other government agencies on a study to determine whether a system could be developed that would allow reimportation of U.S.-made drugs to be done safely.

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