Save Tax Dollars with Prescription Drugs from Canada sign now

Save Tax Dollars-- Reimburse County Employees for Prescription Drugs from Canada

Do you agree that we here in Dutchess County should be saving tax dollars by reimbursing our county employees for prescription drugs from Canada, if they choose to purchase them that way?

Schenectady County has been doing this successfully for over a year now-- saving literally a million dollars a year for taxpayers there annually.

G.O.P.-led Rensselaer County has also been doing this since May-- on track to save $300,000 for taxpayers there annually as well.

Let our County Legislature know how you feel-- at [email protected] and 486-2100; pass it on.


Joel Tyner
County Legislator
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]


"Polytechnic Online" [1/26/05]

"In response to overwhelmingly high U.S. healthcare costs for its employees, Rensselaer County officials are proposing to buy drugs for all of its two-thousand employees from Canada, hoping to save over $300,000 each year.

If the legislature reaches an agreement, the County Executive signs it, and the county's employee unions agree, the plan will go into effect, saving workers on the $10 to $25 co-pay they presently pay in the U.S.

Union members expressed delight at action on a plan they have been pushing for two years now. Recent rising drug prices have forced the issue to the forefront. This program closely follows that of Schenectady County, which last year signed up for domestic mail-ordered Canadian drugs for its 400 employees and saved $1 million.

Rensselaer County is seeking a dual approach. County Executive Kathy Jimino is seeking to reduce the price of the domestic plan and give employees a choice between the Canadian and the domestic plan. The supporters of the plan in Rensselaer County hope to eventually extend the plan to social service clients, jail inmates, and nursing home patients, all of whom could benefit greatly from inexpensive Canadian drugs."


"The Canadian Connection" [AFSCME in Motion 5/21/04]

Local 847 of CSEA/Local 1000 won raises of 3 percent each of the four years of its contract with Schenectady County, N.Y. But that's not all: It also reached a ground-breaking contract agreement that will allow the local's 1,000 members to buy prescription drugs from Canada. That unusual deal, the first of its kind in the state, provides that if a member chooses to purchase drugs through Canadian pharmacies, there is no cost to the employee. The county's incentive: prescription drug savings projected to be worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars," according to CSEA. The purchasing arrangement is between the individual and the Canadian pharmacy.


"Schenectady County Agrees to Offer Canada Drugs"
[New York Statewide Senior Action Council Statewide Newsletter 5/7/04]

Schenectady County is poised to be the first county in the state to offer its employees the opportunity to save money by ordering drugs from Canada. The decision is part of a new contract with unionized CSEA county employees reported in today's Albany Times Union - The agreement still has to be accepted by the workers but its approval is expected. Schenectady County officials met with city government officials in Springfield Massachusetts which also has set up such a plan and has saved $2 million. The county is hoping that it can achieve significant savings with Canadian drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will certainly keep on eye on the Schenectady plan.


"FDA Eases its Stance on Drug Imports"
by Jeffrey Krasner [Boston Globe 10/24/2003]

Softening a hard-line stance against the illegal importation of lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada, a senior Food and Drug Administration official said yesterday that the agency won't sue cities and states that set up plans to bring in the unapproved drugs.

"We're not considering legal action against cities or states," said William K. Hubbard, associate commissioner for policy and planning at the FDA.

The statement, made after a meeting with members of the state Senate Committee on Health Care, gives a boost to programs such as the one in Springfield, where Mayor Michael Albano has contracted with a private supplier to provide prescription drugs from Canada to city employees in hopes of saving as much as $9 million a year. Other Massachusetts cities, including Worcester, Lowell, Revere, and Pittsfield, are considering similar plans.

"This is a big admission," said state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios, Democrat of Cambridge and vice chairman of the committee, who seeks to create a state-sponsored clearinghouse of drug importation information. "Is it a green light to cities? No. But it's a yellow light that says proceed with caution. It's an acknowledgement that cities are responsibly pursuing their obligation to take care of the employees while being fiscally responsible."

Hubbard made his comments after a meeting with members of the healthcare committee. It was one of a series of meetings the FDA has had with cities and states that are considering following Springfield's lead in defiance of FDA warnings.

Hubbard said the FDA would continue its court battles against "businesses that sell commercial quantities of drugs" from overseas. The agency sent a cease-and-desist letter last month to CanaRx, the company that arranges for Canadian drugs to be shipped to Springfield. The Justice Department is awaiting a ruling after suing in Oklahoma to shut down a chain of stores that provide Canadian drugs under the names Rx Depot and Rx of Canada.

The FDA previously had indicated that it would not pursue Albano and Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who plans to set up a website to help Minnesotans buy drugs from Canada at prices negotiated by the state, but the agency had not offered a blanket amnesty for public officials.

Despite the concession, Hubbard underscored the FDA's concerns about the safety of drugs purchased from other countries.

" `Buyer beware' isn't a system that works for drug purchasing," he said. "It's very easy to be injured by a drug."

Barrios said the safety issue is a red herring when Americans are buying drugs that were manufactured in FDA-approved facilities in the United States and handled by licensed pharmacies in Canada.

"The FDA continues to act like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand," he said. "It describes a world of disastrous consequences it would rather not look at."

Hubbard said the agency doesn't have the authority to write regulations necessary to implement safe importation of drugs from other countries. Such action would require additional authorization from Congress, he said.

That contention drew criticism from US Representative Marty Meehan, Democrat of Lowell, who said the Medicine Equity and Drug Safety Act of 2000 accomplished just that. But the FDA and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson haven't acted on the law, he said.

Albano, who has ignited a nationwide movement with his city drug import plan, had a laugh when told of the FDA's position. "This is a major reversal of the FDA policy, who in their own way gave me fair warning when I met with them in September," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm sure my wife will be happy when she hears the FDA won't be knocking our door down."


"States Defy FDA on Drug Importation: Governors from Both Sides Fight for Savings"
by Patricia Barry [AARP Bulletin October 2004]

Weighing in where millions of ordinary Americans have already dared to tread, a growing number of states and cities are defying federal law and the power of the pharmaceutical industry to help people buy prescription drugs from abroad. In some cases they're even filing lawsuits against those who try to stop them.

These smaller governments are in effect giving Washington an ultimatum: Allow Americans to buy lower-cost medications from Canada and other countries, or bring down drug prices at home. They're also strongly challenging the position-long held by the White House, the Food and Drug Administration and the drug companies-that buying medications from licensed pharmacies abroad is not safe.

"This out-and-out state revolt against federal policy is a sea change in American health politics," says Jonathan Oberlander, a health care expert at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "States are very practical," he notes. "If they think they can save money by importing [drugs], they're going to do it. So this is really a case of ideology at the federal level against pragmatism at the state level."

In an election year, the issue also resonates among older voters. Eight of 10 Medicare beneficiaries believe the law should be changed to allow Americans to import drugs from Canada, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

But it is the states that are forcing a showdown. None is yet directly importing drugs to reduce the costs of health programs, as several cities already do. But Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia are pointing residents to websites of prescreened foreign pharmacies. Rhode Island has a law licensing Canadian pharmacies to trade in the state. The California legislature has passed a packet of importation bills. In all, 24 states have considered such measures.

The idea of saving millions of dollars by importing drugs is "catching fire" across the nation, Oberlander says, and in the process "makes it very hard for the Bush administration to hold onto this issue."

Even the bolder states at first moved cautiously, negotiating repeatedly with the FDA, the federal agency responsible for safeguarding the U.S. food and drug supply. But now some have run out of patience.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D, for example, said a year ago he would not proceed with importation without FDA approval. But last month he launched his state's website despite the agency's opposition.

"It's been a frustrating experience working with the FDA," he says. "They've acted more like the guardian of the drug companies and their anti-free-market price structure instead of protecting the health and safety of American consumers."

Vermont took a different tack. In August, after the FDA rejected the state's request to set up a pilot plan to demonstrate how importation from Canada could be done safely, Vermont filed a lawsuit against the agency, calling its decision "arbitrary and capricious and otherwise unreasonable." Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, R, said he hopes the state's action "will result in a legal precedent that benefits every Vermonter and every American."

Others are targeting drugmakers. The Minnesota Senior Federation, a grassroots group, has sued nine drug companies for alleged antitrust conspiracy in cutting off supplies to Canadian pharmacies that sell drugs to Americans. And 14 California pharmacies have sued 15 manufacturers, claiming they conspired to charge Americans "artificially higher prices" than those for the same drugs abroad.

All these actions-as well as opinion polls-are putting intense pressure on Congress to change the law. But the Senate is still waiting to vote on the bipartisan Dorgan-Snowe bill, introduced in April to allow safe importation from several Western countries and break the drug industry's attempted blockade of Canada.

Feelings in the Senate are so strong that Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaking to reporters at the Republican National Convention, said his own majority leader, Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was "doing everything he can to keep the bill from being up for a vote." He added: "If it was up, it would pass 75 to 25."

Frist didn't schedule the bill for the Senate's fall calendar, saying later that he still has safety concerns about importing drugs...

But Blagojevich no longer believes the United States holds the gold on this issue. Unlike the FDA, he has sent state officials to investigate drug safety procedures in Canada and six European nations. There, the officials reported, regulations and practices are sometimes more stringent than U.S. ones, and counterfeit medicines are rare. "Frankly," he says, "I don't think our safeguards are as good as other countries."

Illinois is now setting up a clearinghouse that will provide "an additional layer of safeguards," Blagojevich says, by prescreening, approving and monitoring a network of licensed pharmacies and wholesalers in Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. Illinois residents will have access to them through a state website.

In arranging for imports from beyond Canada, Illinois has gone further than other states in defying the FDA. The agency has not yet prosecuted any state or city but doesn't rule out action against Illinois. "It could come down to us taking this issue to court," says FDA associate commissioner William Hubbard. "We think this program is going to bring in illegal drugs that are potentially dangerous."

But by steering consumers away from dubious Internet sites (which are many) and toward approved foreign pharmacies that sell authentic medicines, Blagojevich says, Illinois is demonstrating what the FDA could, and should, do.

The Illinois fact-finding trip to Europe resulted in an 85-page report. It includes details of how prescription drugs are routinely sold across 18 national borders there, in a free market system known as parallel trade. Drug companies price drugs differently for richer or poorer nations, and wholesalers are permitted to export and import at the lowest cost.

Donald Macarthur, secretary-general of a London-based group representing parallel traders, says the system has worked well for 30 years and is tightly regulated. No case of harm to health has been reported. "And," he says, "there has never been a single confirmed case of a counterfeit medicine reaching a patient through parallel trade anywhere in Europe."

In contrast, counterfeiting within the United States is fairly common-prompting more than 20 FDA investigations a year-because high U.S. prices make it profitable and because any number of middlemen can repackage the drugs, making them harder to monitor. In Europe, patients receive drugs in containers sealed at the point of manufacture.


The FDA has taken no steps to investigate safety in other countries. "The law doesn't provide for that," Hubbard says. But the agency periodically seizes incoming drugs, calling them "unapproved" even in cases of bona fide medicines that differ only in being labeled according to the laws of the exporting country. In July the FDA confiscated 350 packages ordered from Canada. The agency later informed the mystified intended recipients that, for example, their anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor (approved by the FDA in 1996) "appears to be a new drug without an approved new drug application."

Such legalistic niceties do not impress Thomas Motley Jr., of Cape Coral, Fla., a retired lawyer disabled from heart disease, whose drugs were seized in this raid. His shipments of Lipitor always arrive in the manufacturer's sealed containers, he says, so "there can be no issue of the authenticity of my Canadian-sourced drugs."

Will importing from England and Ireland sidestep U.S. drug companies' restrictions on drug supplies to Canada, as Illinois hopes? Not necessarily. Within a week of Illinois' announcement, the giant drugmaker Pfizer imposed a quota system on British wholesalers, even though such restrictions are illegal in Europe.

To make importation work properly, U.S. law needs to "penalize manufacturers heavily for obstructing free trade," Macarthur says. "We know from bitter experience that even having the law on your side is not enough. Big Pharma will hassle and litigate on everything and allege dangers when there are none."


"R.I. Mulls Prescription Drugs from Canada" [CNN 1/14/04]

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- The secretary of state on Tuesday urged Rhode Island to join several cities and states that have plans to buy prescription drugs from Canada, despite a federal prohibition on importing them.

Matt Brown said a prescription program for state employees and retirees could save millions of dollars for Rhode Island, which faces a projected $37 million deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Brown also said he will set up a Web site to help Rhode Island residents buy medications from Canada, where prescription drugs are often substantially cheaper.

"Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world," Brown said in a statement. "This program will help Rhode Islanders get access to quality, affordable prescription drugs."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino plans to begin allowing the city's employees and retirees to buy drugs from Canada this year, despite pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, which says buying drugs from Canada is risky because U.S. officials cannot guarantee the safety and dosages of the imported medicines.

New Hampshire and Illinois are among the group of states and municipalities developing various plans for purchasing drugs from Canada.

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts, already imports Canadian drugs.

A message left for an FDA spokeswoman for comments on Brown's planned Web site was not immediately returned.

An aide to Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty said the lieutenant governor appreciates Brown's interest in health care reform.

"Any effort to help people pay for the prescription drugs they need at prices they can afford is worthy of strong consideration," spokesman Ray Sullivan said.

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