Report: Illinois Reimportation Program Illegal
Illinois Auditor General William Holland in a report released on Tuesday said that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D) I-Save Rx reimportation program is illegal and has low participation rates, the Chicago Sun-Times reports (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/20).
Blagojevich launched I-Save Rx in October 2004, and Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Vermont later joined the program. The states contract with CanaRx, a Canadian pharmacy benefit manager that operates a network of online pharmacies, to allow residents to connect with a clearinghouse of 45 pharmacies and prescription drug wholesalers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Residents can purchase only prescription refills, and most generic medications, narcotics and treatments that require refrigeration or other special care are excluded (California Healthline, 7/19/05).
The report states that purchasing prescription drugs from abroad "is in violation of federal law." In addition, the audit finds that as of April, only 3,689 Illinois residents had ordered prescriptions through the program.
Abby Ottenhoff, spokesperson for Blagojevich, said I-Save Rx is "one piece of a much bigger effort to meet health care needs in Illinois. It's one of the services we offer. It's not for everyone."
The audit also criticizes Blagojevich's decision to attempt to reimport flu vaccines during the 2004-2005 shortage, despite knowledge that "FDA approval was not likely"
The audit states that the federal government already had procured enough shots to cover Illinois' high-risk population by the time the Blagojevich signed a contract to finalize the purchase. Illinois' share for the undelivered shots was $2.6 million, and the total among all participating states was $8.2 million, according to the audit.
Ottenhoff said Blagojevich made the decision in response to "reports of potential influenza outbreaks and widespread sickness and even deaths" (Chicago Sun-Times, 9/20).