Canadian drugs not necessarily cheaper

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

Mark Sherman's story about how Canadian drugs are cheaper than drugs in the U.S. ("AP Survey: Drug Prices Cheaper in Canada," Nov. 6) referred to a report commissioned by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich that allegedly found that "Illinois would save about $91 million a year by buying prescription drugs from Canada." While this estimate has been widely reported, it is incorrect.

The Blagojevich report says $91 million would be saved only if every state employee ordered every brand name drug approved for importation from Canada, every time. The authors of the report admit this won't happen and actually present a more modest savings estimate of $30 million. But even this estimate is wrong.

The Illinois report assumes drug companies would not reduce the discounts they already give to the state's prescription benefit manager, that drug prices in Canada won't increase, that Canada and the U.S. would not have to invest in new security measures to inspect the dramatically increased flow of drugs across the border, and that state employees and retirees would not switch from less-expensive generics and over-the-counter medications. Each of these unintended consequences could cancel out all the projected savings.

Importing Canadian drugs for state employees or Medicaid beneficiaries would not save money. Given the real health risks created by drug importation, voters should oppose politicians who want to balance their budgets by endangering the lives of others.

Joseph L. Bast

President

The Heartland Institute

Chicago



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