Advocacy groups for US seniors have begun to examine proposals to purchase prescription drugs from European and Asian nations because of concerns that the Canadian government might block the sale of lower-cost medications to the United States, the... AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Groups from Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Oregon plan to meet in Philadelphia in March to discuss the purchase of prescription drugs for seniors from nations with price controls, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and members of the European Union. Under a program developed by Illinois, residents of the state -- as well as those of Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Vermont -- can purchase prescription drugs from the United Kingdom and Canada. Minnesota, which currently allows residents to purchase prescription drugs from Canada through a state Web site, has considered a proposal to extend the program to Europe. Supporters of the programs maintain that the prescription drug regulatory systems of European nations are as safe as those in the United States. However, FDA Associate Commissioner of Policy and Planning William Hubbard said, "In Europe, they operate under parallel trade; any country can import drugs from any other country. You're only as strong as the weakest link" (Frommer, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/27).

Montana Governor Questions Bush Administration
In related news, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) on Saturday questioned why the Bush administration has blocked prescription drug reimportation from Canada over safety concerns but has agreed to expand imports of cattle and beef despite concerns about mad cow disease, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. In his weekly radio address, Schweitzer said that FDA has not documented a case of an unsafe prescription drug reimported from Canada, based on comments made by an agency official last year. "Why allow bad beef to enter the U.S. from Canada and not allow safe medicine?" Schweitzer asked (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/27).

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