Sunday, January 25, 2004

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An Internet site that Gov. James E. Doyle promised would help people order cheaper prescription drugs from Canada offers a warning instead — that importing drugs is illegal.

Mr. Doyle pledged last month to create a site to help residents avoid skyrocketing domestic drug prices. But the site, begun Wednesday, contains no links to Canadian pharmacies, no addresses and no phone numbers.

“I would like to provide you with the names of those Web sites, but I can’t,” the Democratic governor says in a Web site statement. “The Bush administration refuses to permit states to help people save money by purchasing medicine from Canada.”

Doyle spokesman Dan Leistikow said the site is a work in progress, and that the goal remains to offer links to Canadian pharmacies.

“It was certainly less than what I thought they were going to do,” said Tom Frazier, executive director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups.

Drugs are as much as 50 percent cheaper in Canada because of government price controls, but importing prescription drugs is banned by U.S. federal law. The Food and Drug Administration has argued that it can’t guarantee the safety of Canadian drugs.

Tom McGinnis, director of pharmacy affairs for the FDA, said he would have to see how Wisconsin tries to put people in touch with Canadian pharmacies before offering an opinion about the legality of the move.

David MacKay, director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, said he doesn’t know of any legal reason why states couldn’t refer people to Canadian pharmacies.

“I don’t know what the hiccup is,” Mr. MacKay said. “Maybe Jim Doyle has a lower threshold for antagonizing the FDA.”

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