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Illinois may sue FDA over drug imports

Illinois may sue the Food and Drug Administration for failure to reply to the state’s request to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, Illinois officials said.
/ Source: Reuters

Illinois may sue the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for failure to reply to the state’s request to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, Illinois officials said Thursday.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, claims the FDA is stonewalling on the state’s request, submitted in December, to set up a pilot program for importing Canadian prescriptions for state employees and seniors.

Prescription drugs are at times discounted up to 70 percent in other countries, where there is greater government control over health care. The Illinois case reflects the friction between federal and state governments over the soaring price of health care.

Formal step
The state’s Democratic attorney general, Lisa Madigan, sent a so-called citizens’ petition to the FDA Thursday, her aide said. The petition requires the agency to respond within six months, aides to the governor said Thursday.

Illinois officials said if they get no response within six months, FDA rules allow them to file suit in the U.S. District Court.

“Today we’re taking a formal step that requires the FDA to respond within six months, or we can take them to court,” the governor said in a statement.

The FDA has said buying medicines abroad is risky and potentially dangerous, but federal officials are studying the issue and will report to Congress on the feasibility of such a system.

An FDA representative could not immediately be reached Thursday.

HMOs can pay
Political pressure is building as governors, localities and elected officials from both parties say importation is a viable option to chase down escalating health care costs.

North Dakota’s biggest health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield said this week it will now reimburse members for prescription drugs imported by individuals from Canada.

Managed health care plans had been confused about their ability to reimburse for drugs that may have been bought outside the U.S.

The FDA says the practice is illegal but has not cracked down on individuals who import prescriptions. Rather the agency has sued companies that aide the effort.

North Dakota’s Blue Cross said it made the policy switch after a meeting with FDA officials, who clarified their position.