Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty intends to ask the state's pension fund to lead an effort to persuade drug giant Pfizer not to cut off supplies to Canadian pharmacies that allegedly sell to Americans.
Pawlenty's reaction came as Pfizer began shutting off shipments to two wholesalers that allegedly supplied medicine to pharmacies that sold to Americans. Last month, Minnesota became the first state to operate a Web site that helps residents import medications from Canada.
Pawlenty on Friday called on the Minnesota State Board of Investment to join with shareholders of pharmaceutical company Pfizer to pressure the company to lower its prices in the United States
Pawlenty's chief of staff, Dan McElroy, said the state's investment fund is one of the largest shareholders in the company, owning 12.9 million shares. Pawlenty said he plans to ask the investment board to draft a shareholder resolution opposing the cutoff.
"And we're going to ask other states to join us," he said on his weekly radio program last week. "It's the beginning of an effort to use the power of the state to begin to push back against these pharmaceutical companies even further," he said.
Pawlenty challenged the Food and Drug Administration to test the safety of the state's new program that helps people buy low-cost prescription drugs from Canada.
A senior FDA official immediately rejected the offer, saying the agency didn't have the authority to do it.
Meanwhile, Pfizer cut off supplies to wholesalers Prairie Supply Co-op and ProCurity Pharmacy Services. Both denied selling Pfizer products to mail-order firms that supply Americans.
They are not among the two pharmacies that Minnesota has selected for its Minnesota RX Connect Web site.
Pawlenty, a Republican, made his proposal for the study in a letter to FDA Associate Commissioner William Hubbard, in response to a letter Hubbard sent urging Pawlenty to abandon the drug program.
Pawlenty proposed that the FDA and state work in a partnership to review the safety of the state's Web site.
"We would welcome the opportunity to work with you as a partner in an effort to demonstrate whether the position of the FDA or the position of the state of Minnesota should prevail," Pawlenty wrote.
He said that the state would share in the cost of the review and would agree to modify or even shut down the program if the review found it to be unsafe.
"The rhetoric regarding these issues is intensifying," Pawlenty wrote. "We could provide a great service to our citizens and the debate by working together on a demonstration project or test."
But Hubbard said in a telephone interview that the FDA has turned down several similar offers from other governors.
"He's asking for a pilot program," Hubbard said. "And Congress hasn't given us that authority."