Thursday, Aug. 19


Illinois prescription drug importation Q&A

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[AUG. 19, 2004] 

How much will people who use the program save?

  • 25 percent to 50 percent savings
  • A recent cost comparison of Illinois, Canadian and European retail prices for a three-month supply includes:


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  • American consumers in 2002 were charged, on average, 31 percent more than citizens of United Kingdom and 38 percent more than Canadian consumers.

When will the program start?

  • The website will be operational within a month.

Who is eligible to participate?

  • The program will initially be for ALL residents of the state of Illinois.
  • Those who would most benefit from this proposal would be the estimated 23 percent of residents without prescription drug coverage or those with insufficient prescription drug coverage for their needs

How will you verify people are Illinois residents?

  • In order to enroll, individuals will need to provide shipping and billing addresses and fill out a health profile form. These documents will enable the pharmacy benefits manager to verify the individual is from Illinois.

How will the program work?

  • For first-time users, the patient must complete a health profile form and provide shipping and billing information.
  • A valid prescription must be faxed by the U.S. doctor or an original mailed by the patient. Only refills are eligible.
  • The clearinghouse performs an initial safety check for interactions, allergies, duplication of therapy and dosage.
  • A clearinghouse network physician reviews the patient profile and reissues the prescription only if the physician is satisfied it is appropriate for the patient.
  • The prescription is then filled in a network pharmacy and mailed to the patient.
  • From the time the pharmacy benefits manager receives a completed order -- health profile with doctor's signature, prescription fax from the doctor's offices or mailed from the patient, payment received -- until the patient receives medication is approximately seven to 21 days, depending on the country and the mail systems.

Which drugs will be available through the program?

  • The state will establish a list of about 100 of the most common brand-name medications used to treat chronic or long-term conditions.
  • Certain types of drugs -- such as generics that are cheaper in the United States, narcotics and medications that could spoil during transit -- would not be included on the list.

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How is Illinois' program different from those in other states like Wisconsin or Minnesota?

  • Illinois will go beyond Canada and also include drugs from approved European pharmacies.
  • Illinois will contract with a pharmacy benefits manager in Canada that will establish a network of approved pharmacies, process orders and ensure a uniform set of safety procedures is followed for every drug that is dispensed. The other states' websites simply link consumers to Canadian pharmacy websites.
  • Illinois will require that all network pharmacies and wholesalers agree to be inspected by our regulators.

Who will inspect foreign pharmacies? How often?

  • Regulators from or approved by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the Department of Public Health will do the inspections. The inspections will take place prior to joining the network and annually thereafter.

How many foreign pharmacies is Illinois currently working with?

  • The initial goal would be to have approximately 35 to 50 pharmacies.

Why did Illinois need to look beyond Canada to access affordable prescription drugs? How were the other European countries chosen and why were some that were visited eliminated?

  • Several pharmaceutical companies have limited drug supplies to Canadian facilities that provide prescription medications to Americans. This has created an artificial shortage of drugs from Canada.
  • The European research team visited Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. We chose to use only countries where English is the primary language -- just another step to ensure that safety is preserved.

Why didn't Illinois sue the FDA like Vermont is?

  • The attorney general's office filed a citizen's petition on behalf of the residents of Illinois, requiring the FDA to respond within six months.
  • Though the FDA has rejected the earlier request for a waiver to implement a pilot program, the citizens' petition is still pending, so the state does not yet have legal recourse.

[News release]

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