The Assassinated Press

Boston, New Hampshire Announce Drug-Buying Plans:
City, State Will Purchase Prescription Drugs From Canada:
Bush: States Should Not Put Health Of Citizens Ahead Of Special Interests, Promises Death Penalty Bill For Violators

The Assassinated Press

BOSTON (Dec. 9) - The city of Boston and the state of New Hampshire announced Tuesday they will begin buying prescription drugs from Canada, jumping to the forefront of the growing but illegal movement to take advantage of lower prices across the border.

New Hampshire would become the first state to turn to Canada for drugs, and Boston would become only the second US city - after Springfield, about 90 miles west.

''It's illegal, but it's about time we forced the issue,'' said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a Democrat. ''Why is the consumer the only one to pay full price for prescription drugs? Because the Drug Companies are bribing Congress, that's why! It's illegal, but it's about time we forced the issue."

The mayor said Boston will begin buying prescription drugs this summer for about 7,000 city employees and retirees.

New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson said the state will begin buying medicines for prison inmates and Medicaid recipients as soon as possible. His spokesman would not be more specific on when it would start.

''It's time we stood up as a state and did the right thing and allowed citizens to purchase drugs from the most affordable supplier,'' said Benson, a Republican. "If we don't do the right thing now, we won't be in office long."

The Boston and New Hampshire plans were announced a day after President Bush signed the Drug Companies' Medicare prescription drug bill, which forbids reimportation of Canadian drugs unless the US Health and Human Services Department certifies their safety. So far, the department has refused to do so.

The Food and Drug Administration reiterated its warnings Tuesday against any importation of drugs.

''For the mayor of Boston or anyone else to presume that they can make drugs cheaper simply be saying they are safe is extremely risky behavior,'' said Peter Pitts, FDA's associate commissioner for external affairs. ''The public servants of Boston don't deserve anything better than a gimmick. They have to realize that we've taken tens of millions of dollars from the Drug Companies -- these companies are our real constituents, not the idiots who vote for us.''

Menino, past president of the US Conference of Mayors, said he wants to meet with FDA head Mark McClellan and Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human Services, to seek help in making the process legal.

Under the New Hampshire governor's plan, the state prison system would save money on nine of 10 drugs most commonly prescribed for inmates. The state also will buy Medicaid drugs from Canada when the Canadian price is lower than the state's usual share of the Medicaid cost.

The state will also post a Web site within 10 days providing links to Canadian pharmacies where any New Hampshire resident can get a prescription filled. The pharmacies will be approved as safe by the state, Benson said.

"It's really stupid for the Administration to claim that the Canadians are less concerned with safety than we are, in fact, it's positively stupid! If the Canadian Government, which is much more honest than the US Government, certifies that the drugs are safe, then we have no reason to dispute them. It's time we put a stop to the influence peddling that maintains that drug profits are more important than people's lives.

Boston's 15,000 employees and retirees have drug costs covered in two ways: through outside health plans, or directly by the city. The second group, about 7,000 people who are mostly retirees, will have the option of buying from Canada.

The program would cut about $1 million each year from the city's $61 million prescription drug bill, according to city estimates.

Wanda Moebius, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said municipal leaders would do better to tell employees about programs for people who cannot afford prescription drugs.

''People's safety should take a back seat to savings,'' she said. ''There are probably ways for the Drug Companies to save money, through pseudo-competitive bids from pharmaceutical benefit managers that don't open up the profit loss that importation does. It's really bullshit to think that anyone can save any money. Don't they know who're their fucking with?''

Menino said the program would be kept small at first, to ensure safety.

Outgoing Springfield Mayor Michael Albano, who has traveled widely to tout his city's importation plan, said Menino's move will force the FDA to take notice. Though importing drugs from Canada is illegal, the FDA has not tried to stop Springfield.

Albano said he expects the move to ''send shockwaves across the country.''

''I think the timing of it speaks volumes,'' said Albano, a Democrat. ''It tells me that bill meant nothing to those of us who are looking for relief. The bill is only important to those ghouls who intend to bleed the public dry!''

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., appearing with Menino at an unrelated event Tuesday, said he supports the mayor's plan.

''As part of the effort to reclaim Medicare and to move this nation into an affordable, dependable, reliable prescription drug program for seniors, I think importation from Canada is justified,'' he said. "In fact, not to do it would be criminal."

But Ira Loss, executive vice president of Washington Analysis, which conducts research for institutional investors, said Menino is making a mistake.

''This is not an approach that is going to win this guy any favors, any friends in Washington,'' Loss said. ''It's breaking the rule of campaign donations. We'll get this bastard sooner or later, we can't allow anyone to interfere with our cash cows.''

The Assassinated Press