Canadian drug program to begin by May |

Canadian drug program to begin by May

Geoff Dornan

RENO – The program to give Nevadans access to lower-price Canadian prescription drugs should be up and running by the beginning of May.

The Nevada Board of Pharmacy voted 4-3 Wednesday to move forward with proposed regulations to implement the program and license four Canadian pharmacies to mail prescription drugs to Nevadans.

Board counsel Louis Ling said the board agreed on a series of refining amendments to the regulations Wednesday and will hold a formal hearing to adopt the regulations May 19 and 20 in Las Vegas. Then the regulations will go to the Legislative Commission for final approval.

Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, praised the board for moving forward, despite the attempts by Attorney General George Chanos to block implementation of the law. Chanos said the legal language is flawed and requires FDA approval of the drugs before they can be imported.

“This has always been a no-brainer,” Buckley said. “Do you stand up for the senior who can’t afford prescription drugs, or stand up for the big pharmaceutical companies?”

“It’s a shame we have to hire Canadian pharmacies to get affordable drugs into this country,” she added.

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She said drug companies are most concerned because when states like Nevada approve importation programs, that puts huge pressure on the federal government to fix drug access and cost problems in the United States.

The board approved the regulations after being assured by representatives of two pharmacies licensed to provide drugs in Nevada that their quality controls, patient education and other rules are just as tight – if not tighter – than requirements on U.S. pharmacies.

Patients will only receive drugs that are approved for use both in the United States and Canada. Generic drugs approved in Canada but not the United States will be banned. Compounds such as insulin, which go bad if not refrigerated, will also not be available.

All the approved pharmacies will provide patients with an 800 number and e-mail address to handle problems or questions.

The Canadian pharmacies will contact patients to ensure they receive their drugs, and will include an explanation if any of the drugs are different from what the patient expected. Actual changes in drugs must be approved by the patient’s physician. Officials said if it’s just a name difference between the American and Canadian version of the drug, they’ll include an explanatory note.

About 30 people turned out to support the program, including advocates for senior and veterans groups.

Opposition to the program came from the Retail Association of Nevada, the National Association of Drug Stores and several individual pharmacists who said they are concerned about the safety of the drugs.

In the end, board members Ann Peterson, Leo Basch and Keith McDonald voted to move forward with the regulations, while Katie Craven, Dave Wuest and Ray Seidlinger voted against the motion. Board Chairman Joe Kellogg broke the tie in favor of going ahead with the program.

When completed, people who need to contact one of the licensed Canadian pharmacies can find the information on the governor’s Office of Consumer Health section on the state’s Web page at Ling said the information will be put online as soon as the regulations are given final approval by the Legislative Commission.