Blagojevich:’why not defy federal government?’

By Gus Bode

Governor touts prescription drug program to seniors

HERRIN- Gov. Rod Blagojevich visited Herrin Wednesday to talk with residents about his new prescription drug program that allows Illinois and Wisconsin residents to purchase drugs from companies outside the United States.

Blagojevich announced the I-SaveRx program Monday and said it is expected to affect nearly 13 million Illinois residents and an additional 5 million Wisconsin residents who buy multiple prescriptions by offering lower-priced prescription medications.


Blagojevich’s visit to Herrin was just one of the stops made on his outreach campaign to educate people about the program this week. The governor and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D- Chicago, worked on the program for more than a year and are now focusing their efforts on senior citizens and those who do not have prescription coverage.

The program will allow Illinois and Wisconsin residents that have enrolled with I-SaveRx clearinghouse, which is administered by CanaRx, to purchase their prescription drugs from countries such as England, Scotland, Ireland and Canada.

However, the federal government currently has laws that prohibit the purchase of drugs from other countries because they are not FDA approved.

Emanuel’s spokeswoman Liz Smith said I-SaveRx was initiated in part because “the federal government hasn’t acted.” Smith said a bill was passed in the House in July, but is still waiting Senate approval.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said even though he backs the governor in his efforts to help the people of Illinois, he does not think this plan is right for its residents.

“I want to deal with the problem, but I don’t want to give the impression to the general public that we’ve cured their problem, but we’ve actually made it worse,” Bost said.

Bost said he fears these drugs might not be as safe as those produced in the United States, which are regulated by the FDA.


However, Melanie Fonder, spokeswoman for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, said not only will I-SaveRx offer consumers more options, but all of the pharmacies are inspected and approved by Illinois agencies to ensure safety.

Furthermore, Bost said he wants Blagojevich to continue to look for a way to offer affordable prescription drugs, especially to senior citizens, but fears this program is going about it the wrong way.

“I’m concerned the message he’s sending is, ‘it’s OK to violate federal law,'” Bost said.

In fact, the governor admitted during Wednesday’s visit that I-SaveRx was something the federal government did not want the state to do.

However, Blagojevich said he tried to work with the FDA on the matter and they were not interested.

“Why not defy federal government and do something that helps senior citizens and working people,” Blagojevich said.

Carterville resident Delores Brookhouse said she came out to see what the governor had to say, but does not plan on using the program. She said she can already get medication at a low price through her insurance.

On the other hand, Robert and Mary Martin of Herrin said they attended the governor’s conference to learn about the program because they are both currently on prescription medication.

Together, the couple must purchase heart, diabetes and blood pressure medications each month and sometimes have trouble finding money to pay for them.

“We’ve managed to scrap up enough to get it, but we’re both disabled,” Mary said. “If you get scared enough, you do without other stuff to get your medication.”

Mary Martin said that after hearing the governor’s speech, they would try the program with the hope that it will save them money.

Blagojevich said situations like the Martin’s is exactly why he started the program because people should not have to choose between getting groceries and getting their medication.

Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said he backs the governors program, but questioned how the pharmaceutical companies could make anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent profit from prescriptions.

“So they sell $2 billion in medication and they make $1 billion in profit,” Forby said. “Is that fair?”