Lower-cost drugs

Friday, November 5, 2004

Missouri's participation in an Internet program that gives residents access to cheaper prescription drugs in Canada and Europe should both save money and provide some safety assurances.

Gov. Bob Holden announced last week that Missouri would join Illinois and Wisconsin in the ISaveRx program that was initiated by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Although the FDA opposes the reimportation of drugs, it has not stopped Internet programs like ISaveRx. Other states have their own similar programs.

One of the key issues in obtaining drugs on the Internet is safety. Anyone with Internet access and an e-mail address is familiar with the hundreds of spam e-mails advertising all sorts of drugs and elixirs that come with phony promises. So how does anyone purchasing drugs on the Internet know those products are genuine or safe?

That's where networks like ISaveRx provide some level of comfort. The network only deals with foreign pharmacies that operate under the same government scrutiny as U.S. pharmacies.

The real issue, however, is the sizable cost difference of drugs purchased in the United States and those obtained elsewhere. Proponents of ISaveRx say participants can save as much as 50 percent on 100 prescription drugs, mainly because of government price controls in Canada and Europe.

The marketplace isn't likely to maintain a two-tiered system of drug pricing if more and more Americans take advantage of state-sponsored programs to obtain foreign drugs. As more states get involved, pharmaceutical companies will have to take notice and consider pricing strategies that are more equitable.

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