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Gov. Blagojevich urges Vermont Gov. Douglas to join the I-SaveRx program

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[FEB. 18, 2005]  CHICAGO -- On the heels of the Vermont Legislature's approval on Tuesday of a bill authorizing the state to join the I-SaveRx drug importation program, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent a letter to Gov. Jim Douglas urging him quickly sign the legislation so Vermont residents can soon begin to enjoy significant savings on their prescription medications. I-SaveRx was developed by Illinois and is the first state-sponsored program in the nation to allow residents to import prescription drugs from inspected and approved suppliers in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom, at savings between 25 percent and 50 percent.

"In an ideal world, our leaders in Washington, D.C., would find a way to give all Americans access to better prescription drug prices on the world market," Blagojevich wrote to the Vermont governor. "But in the meantime, states like Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas have taken the initiative to help our residents get the medications they need at prices they can afford. Now the men and women of the Vermont Legislature have taken action to give your residents access to affordable medications; I urge you to sign Senate Bill 49 and make Vermont our next partner in the I-SaveRx program."

Blagojevich launched I-SaveRx on Oct. 4, 2004, and extended an invitation to other governors to join the program. Currently, the program is available to the residents of Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas.

Vermont's Senate Finance Committee introduced Senate Bill 49 after the Food and Drug Administration turned down the state's request to set up a pilot program to import prescription drugs from countries like Canada. Vermont's attorney general is currently in court trying to force the FDA to approve the program.

Under the I-SaveRx program, residents of participating states are able to purchase more than 120 name-brand, FDA-approved medications from more than 60 pharmacies in Europe and Canada. The medications are types used to treat chronic or long-term conditions, and numerous safeguards are built in to protect patient safety. The program applies only to refills, giving patients and doctors at least 30 days to make sure a medication is effective before the patient can use the foreign, mail-order option. Enrollees are required to complete a profile of their medical history and must provide a physician-signed prescription before ordering. Every prescription, along with medical history information, is reviewed and approved by a network physician and pharmacist in the country from which the medication is being dispensed. Only prescription drugs made and approved for distribution in the countries participating in the program can be dispensed to I-SaveRx consumers, ensuring that drugs cannot be imported from other countries outside the network and then dispensed to I-SaveRx's American consumers.

Illinois first began exploring the feasibility of drug importation in September of 2003, when the governor commissioned a study on the pharmaceutical system in Canada. In the spring of 2004, the governor expanded the review to Europe as well. Public health and regulatory experts from the state researched the pharmaceutical systems in Canada and Western Europe to determine if the systems were safe and if Illinoisans could realize significant savings by purchasing medications from foreign sources. In August 2004, the governor's prescription drug advocates released their final report indicating that, like Canada, the European prescription drug system was well-regulated and was able to provide the same medications available in the United States at much lower prices.

Residents of Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas can begin the enrollment process or get more information by visiting www.i-saverx.net or calling toll-free 1 (866) ISAVE-33 [1 (866) 472-8333]. 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.

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Text of the letter from Illinois Gov. Blagojevich to Vermont Gov. Douglas:

Office of the Governor
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Rod Blagojevich
Governor

February 15, 2005

The Honorable James Douglas
109 State Street, Pavilion
Montpelier, VT 05609

ear Governor Douglas,

You have an historic opportunity to help the residents of Vermont gain access to safe, affordable medications an opportunity that could mean hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in savings a year for some of your most struggling families and senior citizens. I know you have already been working hard to help your citizens afford their medications. With the Vermont Legislature's approval today of Senate Bill 49, you have an opportunity to build on that work by joining the I-SaveRx prescription drug importation program. I urge you to sign this important initiative and join Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas in giving our citizens access to safe medications at prices they can afford.

I launched the I-SaveRx program in October after more than a year of careful review of the Canadian and European pharmaceutical systems. Based on our solid research showing that Canada and Europe both have safe, well-regulated systems, we reached out to the Food and Drug Administration to try to set up a sanctioned prescription drug importation pilot program. The FDA refused to work with us, so we moved forward in designing and implementing our own program.

For years, millions of Americans have been getting their prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where prices are significantly lower. We designed the I-SaveRx program to ensure that our residents can do so safely with the assurance that their medications are coming from legitimate pharmacies under the oversight of Illinois inspectors. We included a number of additional safeguards to make sure participating physicians and pharmacies know about the patients' medical histories, and to protect consumers from counterfeit medicines. If you have any questions about the safety or mechanics of the I-SaveRx program, I am happy to provide you with any information that would be helpful.

In an ideal world, our leaders in Washington, D.C. would find a way to give all Americans access to better prices on the world market. But in the meantime, states like Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas have taken the initiative to help our own residents get the medications they need at prices they can afford. We hope Vermont will become our next partner in the I-SaveRx program. I look forward to working with you on this issue.

Respectfully,
Rod Blagojevich
Governor

[News release from the governor's office]

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