Canada drug import dangerous, government watchdog says

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) criticized Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his efforts in November to provide state employees with prescription drugs and other medical supplies from Canada. The governor, along with a handful of elected officials in other states, is exploring drug re-importation as a fix for budget woes.

“Gov. Blagojevich is so focused on short-term budget savings that he has virtually ignored the fact that drug re-importation would expose the state of Illinois to enormous liability,” CAGW President Tom Schatz said. “It only takes one tainted batch of pills to offset all the supposed savings of drug re-importation.”

Blagojevich said the state could save about $91 million if it supplied Canadian drugs to state employees and retirees, shaving 17 percent off its prescription drug bill. He plans to ask the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to waive a restriction on importing drugs. The Canadian government has told the U.S. that it cannot ensure the safety or efficacy of drugs shipped to the United States, and the Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority or resources to do so.

“In the short run, obtaining medicines from across the border may have a small positive impact on the budgets of cash-strapped states,” Schatz continued. “Unfortunately, the long-term cost and health implications make today’s purported savings pale in comparison.”

The Washington Post recently completed a five-part series documenting many of the hazards of purchasing prescription drugs in the pharmaceutical underworld. The articles depicted teminally ill patients dying from watered-down drugs and doctors prescribing pain-killing medication to patients they’ve not evaluated. Incidents of fraud, counterfeiting, and other illegal schemes are not uncommon.

“The dangers of re-importation are a clear reminder that not all ideas to save taxpayer money are wise,” Schatz concluded. “Rolling the dice with taxpayer money and employees’ health and safety is a penny-wise, pill-foolish approach to solving budget problems.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in government.

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