Orange County Supervisors Reject Pilot Prescription Drug Reimportation Program for Employees
The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a pilot program that would have allowed county employees and retirees to purchase prescription drugs from Canada, the Orange County Register reports.
Under the proposal, introduced by Supervisor Chuck Smith, employees participating in preferred provider organization plans would have been allowed to use Canadian pharmacies to fill brand-name medication prescriptions.
Orange County Deputy CEO Bill Mahoney said an initial staff review showed that employees who imported prescription drugs from Canada could have saved up to 40% (Santana, Orange County Register, 12/22). According to county officials the county government and employees could each save about $850,000 annually by purchasing their prescription drugs directly from Canadian pharmacies (Pasco, Los Angeles Times, 12/22).
However, in a letter earlier this month, the county's chief attorney said that as long as the federal government considers the reimportation of prescription drugs illegal, a county program would pose a risk of legal action from the government and from any employee who suffered a harmful reaction from imported medications (Orange County Register, 12/22).
The board on Tuesday cited such legal concerns in rejecting Smith's proposal. Board Chair Tom Wilson said, "I can't support developing a program before it's legal."
Smith, who attended his last board meeting on Tuesday before his retirement, criticized the decision, saying, "There is a tremendous potential for savings here."
He added that adopting a program to import prescription drugs from Canada would send a message to the federal government that the restrictions on reimportation should be re-evaluated (Los Angeles Times, 12/22).
Incoming Supervisor Lou Correa, who will replace Smith, said he will reintroduce reimportation legislation in the next session.
In related news, Orange County Human Resources Director Marcel Turner at the meeting said that county officials have sent Caremark, the company that administers prescription drug benefits for the county, a letter asking for a renegotiation of the county's contract, which expires in December 2005. If Caremark does not "do a better job on pricing and other terms," the contract would be put out for bid upon expiration, the Register reports.
Turner said, "We want to see a better deal" (Orange County Register, 12/22).