Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The D.C. government was told yesterday to stop directing residents looking for low-cost prescriptions to a Minnesota-sponsored plan that helps people buy drugs from Canada.

“Our contracts with the pharmacies in Canada are very specific that they’re for Minnesota customers only,” said Daniel McElroy, chief of staff for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “Our contract does not permit us to have another government linking to the site.”

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that D.C. officials had created the link “Get Low Cost Prescription Drugs from Canada” on the city Web site to direct resident to Minnesota’s RxConnect plan.

The site,, includes the disclaimer: “Be aware: Federal law prohibits U.S. residents from purchasing pharmaceuticals from other countries while inside the United States; however, the law is currently not being enforced.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration criticized D.C. officials’ decision to create the link, but has not taken action.

William K. Hubbard, the agency’s associate commissioner for policy and planning, said federal regulators cannot assure U.S. patients who buy through the RxConnect program that the drugs will be safe.

D.C. Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, said he suggested the link as a stopgap measure while the District’s plan to lower the price of prescription drugs is being implemented.

The city’s AccessRx Act, which Mr. Catania sponsored, creates a prescription program for its low-income seniors and uninsured residents.

However, a key provision in the plan is being held up in court.

Mr. Catania discounted the FDA’s criticism about purchasing drugs from Canada.

“I think the FDA has lost its way,” he said Tuesday. He also said the agency is working with the pharmaceutical industry to maintain the high cost of drugs.

Mr. Catania said the District received permission from Minnesota to link to the site, but the state reversed course yesterday after the office of Mr. Pawlenty, a Republican, learned about the link.

Mr. McElroy said Minnesota officials still want to work with the District to help the city start its own plan to direct residents to buy cheaper drugs in Canada.

“We have been trying to assist the people in D.C. to negotiate their own contract,” he said.

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