Municipalities increasingly importing Canadian drugs for employees

Earlier this year, Boston joined the growing number of cities that have turned to Canada in search of more affordable prescription medications. Mayor Thomas M. Menino implemented a plan that is expected to save the city of Boston over $1 million over the next year by importing prescription medications for city workers and retirees. City council member, Felix Arroyo blamed the rapidly rising cost of drugs on the big pharmaceutical companies. “We need a limit to profits when our lives are on the line,” he said.

Many other cities have already taken the same steps to order their prescription drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies to cut back on costs.  Springfield, Mass., was the first city in the nation to implement a system for its employees and retirees to purchase their prescription medication from Canada.  According to former mayor Michael Albano, more than 2,200 people participate in the program.  Other cities that have followed the lead of Springfield are Montgomery, Ala., and Burlington, Vt., as well as Boston.

In its first year, Montgomery’s plan for city employees and retirees saved the city almost half a million dollars.  Burlington’s plan has had similar results.  When asked if he intended to wait for the approval of the FDA before launching his program, Burlington mayor Peter Clavelle said, “We don’t intend to wait for their blessing.”

Because the FDA is based near Montgomery, the actions taken by the city may be under closer watch than other cities.  The associate commissioner of the FDA told the Washington Post, “Clearly the fact that the county in which the majority of FDA employees live and work would ignore the FDA’s fundamental statutes is an example of the level of concern about the high cost of drugs.

Many other municipalities have seen the results of these programs and have already begun to implement similar initiatives.  As the number of cities and states with such programs grows, supporters are confident that the pressure will force the federal government to finally ease U.S. restrictions on drug imports.

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