An investigation by New Hampshire officials is expected to show that reimporting medicine from Canada is safe, but the report won't be released for another week, Gov. Craig Benson said today.
"I think there's a lot of questions in New Hampshire," Benson said. "Hopefully we're going to have some answers for them based on some investigations that we've done on our own."
State Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen said the report shows the cheaper medicine from Canada is safe and effective.
The report says state officials ordered prescription drugs from Canada and bought the same drugs in New Hampshire. The drugs were tested at the state crime lab, and no differences were found, Stephen said.
Stephen did not discuss the specifics of the report, noting it was prepared for Benson and is being evaluated by the governor. He told the Union Leader on Wednesday it "clearly shows there is quality of service and the practices (in Canada) are safe and effective, and health and safety will in no way be compromised."
The report was not part of the discussions Benson had with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday, Benson said. Instead, their 15-minute meeting focused on Medicaid money and getting federal approval to join with other states in purchasing medicines in bulk.
"There was no mention of Canadian drugs whatsoever. None. Zero," Benson said.
Federal law forbids reimportation of Canadian drugs. Benson has asked for waivers that would allow New Hampshire to reimport drugs from Canada. It can't happen unless Thompson certifies their safety.
Benson said today he had not planned to present the results of his investigation to the federal government.
Benson has proposed reimporting drugs for state prison inmates and some Medicaid recipients, and the state would launch a Web site providing links to Canadian pharmacies for any New Hampshire resident.
Because of Canadian price controls, the cheaper Canadian dollar and other factors, brand-name prescription drugs in Canada sell for 35% to 40% less than in the United States.
Each year, New Hampshire spends about $140 million a year in prescription drugs under its Medicaid program. Stephen said costs of drugs have been rising by double-digit percentage rates in the last three years.
Stephen said the report did not focus on Medicaid, but on safety-related issues when it comes to reimportation. The report details how state officials ordered reimported prescription drugs from Canada and purchased the same drugs in New Hampshire. They then sent the drugs to the state crime laboratory for a blind analysis. No difference was detected, Stephen said.
U.S. drug companies and pharmacists have warned about dangers of importing prescription drugs from Canada.
Benson's plan would require all reimported drugs to be manufactured in the United States and shipped in their original packaging. In addition, the patient importing the drugs would be required to have an American doctor's prescription that also was signed by a Canadian doctor.
Benson described his meeting with Thompson on Wednesday as positive.
"Tommy Thompson, being a former governor, understands that we've got to change things, and I've asked him to see if we can't be at the forefront of that change," Benson said. "We can move a little faster than bigger states ... so there's a lot of advantages to dealing with New Hampshire."