Montgomery County Executive Duncan Sues Bush Administration Over Canadian Drug Imports

Cheaper Medications for Senior Citizens and Others Sought

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan announced today that his County has filed suit against the Bush Administration in an effort to allow seniors and others in the community to re-import prescription medications from Canada. The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Greenbelt, appeals a U.S. Food and Drug Administration denial of a Montgomery County waiver request under the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA) to allow County residents and employees to import lower cost prescription drugs from Canada.

"It is fundamentally unfair that people living in Canada pay a fraction of what Americans pay for the same prescription drugs," Duncan said. "Our lawsuit seeks to correct this inequity and allow seniors and others to get access to more affordable medications."

Duncan has fought for several years to bring down the high costs of prescription medications. In 2004, Montgomery County launched the Montgomery Rx discount prescription drug card program to make lower cost medications available to every resident. More than 280,000 cards have been distributed, and County residents have saved nearly $1.8 million to date using the free cards.

Duncan also appealed to Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich in 2004, requesting that he file a waiver request with the Food and Drug Administration to allow for the importation of Canadian drugs. Following Ehrlich's failure to act, Duncan last year filed a formal waiver request with the FDA on behalf of the nearly one million residents of Montgomery County seeking to establish a pilot Canadian drug re-importation program as envisioned under the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. The Food and Drug Administration denied this request in a November 8, 2005 letter to Duncan. The lawsuit filed today seeks to overturn that ruling, alleging that the decision was "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion."

The County argues that FDA's denial of their importation waiver request is arbitrary because FDA permits numerous other State and local governments to operate Canadian drug importation programs *in violation of* federal law but refuses to assist the County to import these drugs *within the law*. Based on FDA's tacit approval of these illegal programs, one can only conclude that FDA does not really believe that importation of drugs from Canada poses a safety risk to American consumers?despite its public pronouncements to the contrary.

"While the federal government has failed to act, Montgomery County has taken the lead once again in the fight to make health care more accessible and affordable," said County Council President George Leventhal. "I applaud the legal action taken today, which makes way for cheaper prescription medications for our most vulnerable residents."

"Too many Marylanders can't afford prescription drugs because the Food and Drug Administration won't allow re-importation from Canada," said Vincent Demarco, President of the Maryland Citizen's Health Initiative. "We commend the County Executive for challenging this decision in court."

"I applaud the action of County Executive Duncan and the Council to do what the Federal Government should have done in the first place--make drugs affordable to U.S. citizens of all ages, but specifically seniors," said Bruce Dunton, President of the Maryland and District of Columbia Alliance for Retired Americans and a member of Montgomery County's Commission on Aging. "It is a disgrace that our county has to make right what the Federal government got so wrong."

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