Prescription Roulette

Published August 31, 2004

In response to a lack of interest in Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Illinois Rx Buying Club, launched in January, the team of Blagojevich and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois) is attempting to expand a dangerous game of prescription roulette that places politics ahead of public safety.

There is no evidence to validate their claim, “Illinois residents could safely buy prescription drugs for up to 50 percent less than in the U.S.” from England and Ireland. By contrast, the evidence on counterfeit products is very real.

The hyped-up claim of saving 50 percent is also open to question, as most generic medications are cheaper here than from foreign sources. Seniors currently enrolled in the Illinois Rx Buying Club report they do not see the boasted savings of 20 to 30 percent.

The plan to buy drugs from Ireland appears to be unraveling like a cheap sweater. The Irish agency involved with regulating prescription drugs says it never had contact with the governor’s office and that the news is a big surprise.

Anne Nolan, chief executive of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, said they would not be happy with the arrangement, which “would cause enormous problems for us to meet our local obligations here.”

With little regard for the legal issues and aware of Irish exporting laws, Blagojevich and Emanuel have devised a way to skirt Irish law. The drugs would be bought from Irish wholesalers, shipped to pharmacies in England, and then re-shipped to Illinois consumers.

According to Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, “That the governor and Rep. Emanuel are willing to risk the health and safety of prescription drug consumers to score a few political points is truly alarming. That is the real story.”

Conrad F. Meier ([email protected]) is senior fellow – health care policy for The Heartland Institute. This letter was published by the Chicago Sun-Times on August 31.