Illinois leads medication import initiative

By Acton Gorton

The state of Illinois has taken the initiative in allowing long-term treatment drugs to be imported from Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland in order to combat the high prices of drugs sold domestically.

Since the Illinois government’s launch of the I-SaveRx program in October, three other states have joined the program – Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri. Though the program targets citizens without health insurance and citizens with insurance but without prescription drug coverage, all residents of the four states are eligible for the program.

The Food and Drug Administration, as well as several pharmacists’ organizations, have criticized the state’s importation of drugs from abroad, saying there were not adequate measures to ensure the drugs were safe.

However, Abby Ottenhoff, spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said adequate safeguards had been put in place.

“Pharmaceutical experts were sent to Canada to see if the system makes sense,” Ottenhoff said. “They found the system is safe and well-regulated.”

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But the program, as it currently stands, does not allow for the importation of medications for treating Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).

Karen Braman, Deputy Director of Health Planning and Finance for Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the reason why medicines used for treating ADD or AD/HD are not imported might be due to issues with shipping, storage, or potential for abuse. However, Braman said she was not fully aware of the exact cause.

Ottenhoff said the 120 drugs currently available for importation are used to treat long-term illnesses, such as heart disease and high cholesterol. She also said controlled substances, drugs similar to penicillin and drugs that may spoil in shipping containers are not currently available under the I-SaveRx program.

However, Straterra, a non-addictive, non-amphetamine drug used to treat ADD and AD/HD, is also banned despite meeting all the criteria set by the I-SaveRx program.

Ottenhoff did not return a phone call seeking comment on why Straterra was banned by the program.

Boyang Matsapola, sophomore in LAS, is a student who lives with ADD and depends on Straterra to help him get through classes and study.

“I think the program fails to recognize how common and how severe ADD is,” he said. “I think in general, prescription drugs are expensive, $100 for 30 pills is ridiculous.”

Bryan Goodman, a spokesman for the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), an organization based in Landover, Md., referred to fact sheets available online through his organization.

“Although individuals with this disorder can be very successful in life, without identification and proper treatment, AD/HD may have serious consequences, including school failure, family stress and disruption, depression, problems with relationships, substance abuse, delinquency, risk for accidental injuries and job failure. Early identification and treatment are extremely important,” stated a fact sheet on the CHADD Web site.