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Missouri joins I-SaveRx     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 30, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Chicago, were joined by Missouri Gov. Bob Holden at events in Chicago and St. Louis on Thursday to announce that Missouri is joining the I-SaveRx prescription drug importation program -- the first program in the nation to allow citizens to purchase lower-cost, safe prescription drugs from Europe and Canada.

Missouri is the third state to join the program developed by Illinois. When the program was launched earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle announced that his state would participate. I-SaveRx will provide more than 23 million residents in the three states with access to lower-priced prescription drugs through a network of 45 inspected and approved pharmacies and wholesalers in Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Consumers in Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois can look up I-SaveRx prices and start the enrollment process by calling toll-free 1 (866) ISAVE33 or visiting www.I-SaveRx.net.

"Americans have been crying out for relief from the outrageous cost of prescription medications," said Gov. Blagojevich. "They know they're being gouged by the drug companies. We've waited and waited for the FDA and leaders in Congress to help our citizens, but they continue to stall and make excuses. In the meantime, more than 1 million Americans have figured out how to get their medications for significantly less from Canada. Through I-SaveRx, we're putting important safeguards in place so more people can take advantage of lower prices in Canada and Europe without compromising safety. Already, more than 17,000 people in Illinois and Wisconsin have called or gone online to get I-SaveRx information and enrollment forms. Today we're extending that opportunity to Missouri's 5.7 million residents."

"In just three weeks, three states have joined a prairie fire that is building around the country," said Emanuel, the Illinois congressman who joined in the announcement. "I welcome Governor Holden as this movement builds for affordable prescription drugs,"

"I am confident this is a system that offers both safety and savings," said Gov. Holden, D-Missouri. "It relies only on pharmacies that have passed a rigorous inspection, and Illinois has done an outstanding job of researching and providing appropriate oversights. The federal government's refusal to stand up to the drug companies has penalized our citizens for too long. This program that will help Missourians, and it will also help force a change in drug policies in this country."

Gov. Blagojevich launched I-SaveRx on Oct. 4 and extended an invitation to other states to join the program. Participants in the I-SaveRx plan can save an average of 25 percent to 50 percent on the cost of the most common medications used to treat chronic conditions. For instance, a three-month supply of the drug Lipitor in 20 mg doses, which is used to treat high cholesterol, costs an average of $282 in the United States but is available through I-SaveRx for $180 from Ireland, $194 from the United Kingdom and $203 from Canada, plus the $15 shipping charge per order. A three-month supply of Celebrex in 100 mg doses, used to treat arthritis pain, costs $178 in the United States but only $84 in Ireland, $84 in the United Kingdom and $82 in Canada, plus shipping.

The program connects users to the I-SaveRx clearinghouse, administered by CanaRx, through the website or toll-free telephone number. The clearinghouse provides users with information on the list of medications included in the program, prices in each of the three countries, and enrollment forms and guidance. Consumers can enjoy one-stop shopping rather than contacting numerous pharmacies to gather information and compare prices.

Before ordering, new enrollees must mail or have their doctor fax a completed health profile form and signed prescription to the clearinghouse. Once the clearinghouse has received the prescription and health profile form, it will conduct an initial scan for appropriateness, using the same drug interaction software used in Illinois pharmacies. If the prescription passes the interaction test, it will then be turned over to a network physician in the country from which the medication will be dispensed. The network physician will review and rewrite the prescription for a local network pharmacy, and the pharmacy will perform a final safety check to comply with local laws and regulations before dispensing the medication.

The I-SaveRx import program builds in numerous safety measures to ensure the quality and safety of drugs dispensed. The list of available drugs is limited to those that are used for long periods of time and that cannot spoil during the shipping process. Consumers can order eligible drugs for refill only, so patients and their doctors have had time to review for unanticipated side-effects or interactions. All network pharmacies agree to comply with Illinois pharmaceutical standards and to dispense only drugs that are intended as domestic product in Canada, Ireland or the United Kingdom -- meaning the pharmacies cannot dispense prescription drugs from countries that are not part of the program to I-SaveRx consumers.

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While all residents of Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri are eligible to enroll in I-SaveRx, the states are focusing their promotional efforts on reaching people who do not have prescription drug coverage -- estimated at more than 5 million individuals in the three states combined. Of that total, older citizens have the greatest need for relief. According to the Center for Policy Alternatives, one out of every five senior citizens takes at least five prescription medications daily. Last year, the prices of the 30 prescription drugs used most by senior citizens rose more than four times faster than the rate of inflation, according to Families USA.

Since launching I-SaveRx, Gov. Blagojevich has embarked on an aggressive outreach campaign, visiting more than a dozen Illinois senior centers and explaining the new program to seniors. In addition, the departments of Aging and Public Health are reaching out to seniors and physicians throughout the state to spread information about the program and enrollment procedures.

I-SaveRx is the culmination of a year of research and work. Last fall, the governor sent a team of experts to Canada to study the effects of importing prescription drugs from that country. The group reported that importing prescription drugs from Canada is not only safe, but in some cases, even safer than purchasing prescription drugs here in the United States. The governor and his experts then traveled to Washington, D.C., to share the results of their study with other experts and leaders around the country. The team from Illinois met with members of Congress and officials from the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.

In December, Emanuel joined Gov. Blagojevich in asking the federal government for a special waiver to launch a pilot program to import prescription drugs from Canada. After weeks of waiting for a response, the governor helped organize a class-action lawsuit to give senior citizens across the nation the same opportunities that senior citizens in states bordering Canada have to purchase cheaper prescription drugs.

In May, Gov. Blagojevich dispatched a delegation made up of members of his staff, the Office of Special Advocates for Prescription Drugs, and the departments of Public Health and Professional Regulation to research whether Illinois could look to Europe for safe and affordable prescription drugs.

The Illinois delegation met with representatives from governments, pharmacies, wholesalers, parallel importers, health and insurance funds, and professional and trade associations in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They methodically assessed pharmacy practices, manufacturing practices, warehousing and storage, and distribution and dispensing processes and compared them with Illinois standards and practices. The delegation concluded that Illinois could establish a network of foreign pharmacies that would meet state standards and provide safe medications at much lower prices.

In August, the governor released the report of the European study, the findings of which closely mirror those of the Canadian study. The experts found that Illinois consumers could save money by buying their medications from European pharmacies and could obtain safe prescription drugs equivalent in every way to the medications they purchase in the United States.

The I-SaveRx plan creators used the findings from both the Canadian and European reports to design a system that helps Illinois, Wisconsin and now Missouri residents obtain prescription drugs at significant discounts from safe, regulated sources abroad.

[News release from the governor's office]

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