"You have worked hard, you raised your
families and saved carefully all your lives so you could live
happily and independently in your retirement years. You did your
part, but many of you still haven't been able to enjoy retirement
and the promise of the American dream because the medications that
would make it possible are out of reach," Gov. Blagojevich said.
"Since September, the state of Illinois
has been asking the federal government to work with us to help our
citizens buy safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada. The
FDA tells us our plans -- that have been carefully designed to
protect consumers and help them buy affordable prescription drugs --
are unsafe, unsound and ill-considered. In the meantime, we see
study after study reporting that senior citizens and people with
chronic illnesses are being forced to choose between buying the
medications they need and paying their rent. We can't let that
continue to happen."
On Thursday, Gov. Blagojevich stood
with an Illinois couple, Ray and Gaylee Andrews, in Washington, D.C.
as they became the first plaintiffs in a federal class action
lawsuit against the FDA and Health and Human Services Secretary
Tommy Thompson. The Andrews, like older individuals in communities
across the state and country, have very high monthly drug costs, but
their limited income and lack of adequate prescription coverage
prevent them from being able to meet their medication expenses and
other basic needs.
"Ray and Gaylee are asking the courts
to tell the FDA to respect people's rights to make their own medical
decisions -- and allow them to buy safe, affordable drugs from
Canada. Others in circumstances like the Andrews may be able to join
this effort to change, once and for all, a law that discriminates
against seniors and sick people in our country who can't get the
drugs they need at a price they can afford," the governor added.
The suit challenges the current federal
law that prohibits individuals and governments from importing
prescription drugs from Canada on three grounds: for violating
individuals' right to privacy by denying them freedom to make
personal medical decisions; for improperly giving legislative
authority to the executive branch by letting the secretary of Health
and Human Services decide if and when importation should be legal;
and for disproportionately affecting seniors in non-border states
who do not have the option of driving across the border to buy less
expensive medications, as has been permitted by the FDA.
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The governor urged seniors who, like
the Andrews, have high drug costs, no prescription coverage, and
fixed or low incomes to sign on to the legal action by forwarding
their names and personal stories to Robert Clifford, the plaintiffs'
attorney for the class action.
Blagojevich also invited his audience
to join the Illinois Rx Buying Club, open to all Illinois' residents
who are 65 or older and disabled people. The club offers savings
that average more than 20 percent on all FDA-approved drugs for an
annual administrative fee of $25.
"We're pushing for a permanent
solution. But in the meantime, seniors in our state who have been
unable to qualify for assistance in the past can get some help in
affording their medications," Blagojevich told his audience.
"The idea is simple. We ask the senior
and disabled citizens of Illinois to join forces with state
employees and others covered by the state's health programs to
strengthen our negotiating power. Then we say to the pharmaceutical
companies: ‘If you give us a steep discount on your products, we can
deliver millions of Illinois customers to you. If you refuse to give
us a price break, we will take our business to your competitors.'
In its first eight weeks of operation,
the buying club has enrolled 7,239 seniors and 318 disabled people.
Another 57,449 participants in the state's Circuit Breaker/Pharmaceutical Assistance Program have been automatically enrolled
so they will get discounts on drugs that are not covered by the
income-based program. The average discount right now is 21 percent.
The buying club gives members immediate
savings based on rebates that the program's private administrator,
SavRx, has already negotiated with drug manufacturers. The state
will negotiate additional rebates by combining the market leverage
of the buying club with that of more than 500,000 people who are
insured in the state-sponsored programs.
information and a list of participating retail pharmacies are
available by calling 1 (866) 215-3462, 1 (800) 252-8966 or on the
[News release from the