Supporters of a new law allowing Nevadans to buy lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada were hit Tuesday with an adverse state attorney general's opinion that favors this country's pharmaceutical industry.
Attorney General George Chanos said in the 19-page opinion that
his office supports the idea of low-cost drugs - but it's clear
that state lawmakers "also intended to ensure that the
prescription drugs provided to the citizens of Nevada were both
safe and effective."
Legislators tried to balance the need for affordable drugs with
the need for quality and safety of those drugs, and their policy
decisions "now serve as insurmountable legal obstacles to the
importation of virtually any drugs from Canada," Chanos said in
the opinion sought by the state Board of Pharmacy.
Nevada's Canadian drug program had been put on hold while the
attorney general studied the new law that states a Canadian
pharmacy shall not sell to a Nevada resident a drug that hasn't
been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Sen.
Joe Heck, R-Henderson, who had key roles in developing the new law,
pressed unsuccessfully for an opinion that would reflect lawmakers'
intent to help Nevadans get safe, affordable drugs.
Buckley and Heck said the interpretation favored by the
pharmaceutical industry was that Canadian drugs should be in the
same form and packaging as they are in the United States, but a
better interpretation is that the molecules in the drug have to be
But Chanos said the pharmacy board, which has to oversee the
drug program "could not reasonably be expected to confirm that the
'manufacturing process,' the 'formulation,' the 'storage' and/or
the 'pedigree' have been ensured and/or approved by the FDA."
"In essence, the quality standard adopted by the Nevada
Legislature is, as a practical matter, unworkable," Chanos wrote,
adding that his office "cannot legislate such a standard." He
said that's a job for lawmakers themselves.
Buckley termed Chanos' opinion "obscure and tortured," adding
that it adopts the position being pushed by the pharmaceutical
industry and runs counter to an opinion from the Legislature's own
Buckley also said she will urge the Pharmacy Board to move ahead
with the Canadian drug program despite the attorney general's
"I'm hopeful the board will do the right thing and will stand
up for Nevadans," Buckley said. "I believe ultimately that common
sense and decency will prevail over special interests."
Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world,
and some U.S. lawmakers have been pushing to legalize the
importation of wholesale prescription drugs as well as Internet
purchases from Canada and other countries.
The magazine Consumer Reports has said prescription drugs from
Canada are priced on average 25 to 50 percent below those on the
The Pharmacy Board already had given tentative approval to
licensing seven pharmacies in Canada, pending an inspection. Two of
the pharmacies subsequently withdrew their applications.
The Pharmacy Board staff also conducted inspections of the
facilities. Louis Ling, the board's general counsel, said four of
the five passed muster but the fifth was not as well managed as the
Eight states, several cities and the District of Columbia
operate similar programs in opposition to the Bush administration's
stance that prescription drug imports can be unsafe.