A legislative panel gave final approval Thursday to rules that let Nevadans buy low-priced prescription drugs from Canada - making this state the ninth to challenge a federal prohibition against such imports.
Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who
pushed the plan in the 2005 Legislature, said the import option is
needed because many people pay twice as much for similar
prescriptions in this country and "have no way to afford the drugs
they need to live."
"It's pretty clear to us that our national policies are a
disgrace," Buckley said, adding, "While we wait for the federal
government to do something, we wait in vain because they are not
addressing this issue at all."
Buckley was joined by all but one other member of the lawmakers'
Subcommittee to Review Regulations in endorsing the rules that had
been approved last month by the state Board of Pharmacy. Sen. Mark
Amodei, R-Carson City, dissented.
Amodei questioned how the state could move against Canadian
pharmacies that violate terms of their agreements that enable them
to sell drugs to Nevadans, or cause injuries or deaths by
improperly filling prescriptions.
"They're two different countries, last time I checked," Amodei
Buckley said that consumers are protected because the Canadian
pharmacies that participate in the Nevada import program "submit
to the laws of Nevada." She also said that only drugs that are
approved for use in the United States and that meet Canadian safety
standards can be sold through the import program.
A state Web site linking consumers to the approved pharmacies
was expected to be up and running by Friday.
While the federal Food and Drug Administration and Nevada's
attorney general have opposed the import program, it has been
backed by most state lawmakers and by Gov. Kenny Guinn, who
expressed some misgivings but signed the new law anyway.
Other supporters included the Nevada State Medical Association,
AARP Nevada, and teachers and public employees unions who said the
program will help consumers, particularly seniors, get lower-cost
drugs without ordering from unregulated Web sites.
FDA spokeswoman Janet McDonald has said the regulations would
leave consumers who import drugs open to criminal and civil
penalties, although limited resources have kept federal law
enforcement officials from aggressively pursuing some illegal
prescription import cases.
Earlier this year, Buckley tangled with state Attorney General
George Chanos over the law. Chanos called it unworkable and
suggested that revisions be made in a special session of the
Legislature. The attorney general won't represent the Pharmacy
Board if lawsuits develop, a spokeswoman for Chanos has said.
The program allows the sale of prescriptions in pill or capsule
form, made up of compounds that have been approved both by the FDA
and its Canadian equivalent, Health Canada.
The Canadian pharmacies must maintain a free phone line and
provide e-mail access, and contact a customer's doctor if the
customer doesn't provide a prescription written by a doctor.