Gov. Blagojevich Risks State Health Crisis to Score Political Points Against Bush

Published November 25, 2003

Chicago, IL, November 25, 2003 – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s call to limit access by state employees to the products of some name-brand drug makers received a harsh reception from at least one health policy expert in Chicago today. Joseph Bast, president of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, denounced Gov. Blagojevich’s move as “irresponsible” and likely to prove “completely counterproductive.”

Gov. Blagojevich announced today he plans to punish drug companies that are limiting their exports to Canada in an attempt to discourage reimportation, a practice drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say threatens the safety of the U.S. drug supply. Blagojevich has instructed state officials to find substitutes for the products of the offending drug companies, so that starting in 45 days, state workers and retirees will be encouraged or forced to stop using the name-brand drugs.

The Governor’s announcement came on the same day as the U.S. Senate passed a Medicare reform plan that did not include a measure that would legalize importation from Canada, a concept Gov. Blagojevich championed over the past few months.

“This is politics at its worst,” said Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, a 19-year-old nonprofit organization, and publisher of Health Care News, a national monthly publication. “This governor wants to strike out at President George Bush and drug companies, and he doesn’t care whose life he puts in jeopardy in the process.

“The Governor is willing to force the state’s Medicaid enrollees, employees and retirees to use second-best drugs as part of a meaningless gesture against economic realities. As irresponsible as that is, it becomes much worse once it becomes clear that such a program would be completely counterproductive.

“The Governor continues to claim his “special advocates” found that importation could save $91 million a year. He needs to read the study. It says $30 million is more likely, and even that is only a guess. The study makes outrageous assumptions that no objective expert could possibly agree with.

“Importing drugs on a large enough scale to make a difference would pose major new security demands on the Canadian and U.S. drug systems. The cost of meeting those demands, plus the inevitable rise in drug prices in Canada, will erase any possible savings from the Governor’s plan.”

The Heartland Institute is a 19-year-old independent source of research and commentary founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1984. It is not affiliated with any political party, business, or foundation. Heartland’s mission is to help build social movements in support of ideas that empower people. Such ideas include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies. For more information, call 312/377-4000 or visit