Kansas Joins Three Other States in I-SaveRx Prescription Drug Reimportation Program
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) on Tuesday announced that Kansas will become the fourth state to join I-Save Rx, which allows participating states' residents to purchase lower cost prescription drugs from Canada, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports (Hanna, AP/Chicago Tribune, 11/30). Under the program -- which was developed and launched in October by Illinois and later joined by Wisconsin and Missouri -- 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 and Ireland. The pharmacies are approved by Illinois health inspectors and verified by Wisconsin. Residents can use the program's Web site or call a toll-free telephone number to connect with the clearinghouse, which provides information on prescription drug costs for about 120 of the most common brand-name medications used to treat chronic or long-term conditions. Residents must mail or have their physician fax completed health profile forms and signed prescriptions to the clearinghouse, which examines the safety of the prescriptions with medication interaction software currently used in Illinois pharmacies. Verified prescriptions are sent to network physicians in the nation that will supply the medications, and the physicians rewrite the prescriptions for local network pharmacies, which make final safety determinations and distribute the medications. Under the program, residents can purchase only prescription refills, and most generic medications, narcotics and treatments that require refrigeration or other special care are excluded. About 1,200 of the estimated five million Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri residents who lack prescription drug coverage have enrolled in, and ordered prescription drugs through, the program (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/30).
Sebelius said that I-Save Rx is "a good, safe program and will result in real savings for seniors and working Kansans" (Painter, Wichita Eagle, 12/1). Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who with Sebelius announced the decision by Kansas to participant in the program, said, "Lifesaving medications should not be luxury products available only to people who can afford them." Blagojevich also recommended that other states join the program (AP/Chicago Tribune, 11/30). However, John Kiefhaber, executive director of the Kansas Pharmacists Association, said that the program is "illegal and potentially unsafe." Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays (R) has sent a letter to state Attorney General Phill Kline (R) to ask whether the program violates Kansas law and leaves the state vulnerable to liability lawsuits. "People need to understand that this is no panacea, that there are dangerous risks involved in this program," Mays said. An unnamed Kline spokesperson said that the request is under review (Wichita Eagle, 12/1).