Minnesota To Shut Down Online Prescription Drug Importation Program

On March 1, Minnesota will end its six-year-old online prescription drug importation program because of a lack of demand, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Despite safety warnings from federal officials, Minnesota became the first state in 2004 to sponsor an effort to help residents purchase low-cost prescription drugs from Canada.

The Minnesota RxConnect Web site let Minnesota residents purchase prescription drugs from three Canadian pharmacies that were inspected by the state. In 2006, the program was expanded to allow residents to purchase prescription drugs from Great Britain that were sold through Canadian pharmacies.

FDA officials warned the state that the site could expose residents to adulterated, impure or counterfeit drugs. However, no safety problems were ever reported, according to the Star Tribune.

Several other states launched their own prescription drug import Web sites modeled after the Minnesota program.

Decline in Demand

Officials on Wednesday said that Minnesota residents used the online program to purchase a total of roughly 25,000 prescription drugs for about $3.3 million, saving an estimated $1.7 million.

Last month, residents ordered 50 prescriptions worth about $7,000 through the site, the lowest sales of any month.

Cal Ludeman -- commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which runs the prescription drug import program -- said, "Six years ago, the landscape was very different."

He said that a new Medicare program offering subsidized prescription drug insurance for older and disabled U.S. residents has contributed to the decline in demand. In addition, more doctors are prescribing less expensive generic drugs, Ludeman said.

After the program ends on March 1, the Minnesota RxConnect Web site will continue to provide information about prescription drug safety, cost-saving advice and assistance programs for low-income residents (Wolfe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1/6).


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