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September Legislative Update

Any Willing Pharmacy bill, Drug Reimportation, Golden Buckeye Rx Drug Card Update

Legislative Update September 2003
Kelly Vyzral, Director of Government Affairs

New Legislation Allows You to Participate in Contracts !
Representative Tom Patton recently introduced H.B. 253, the Any Willing Pharmacy bill. Under this legislation, insurance companies would be prohibited from excluding pharmacies from participating in that program, as long as the pharmacy is willing to meet the terms of the insurance contract. The bill was introduced on July 29, 2003, but has not yet been assigned to a committee. We look forward to working with Rep. Patton to make sure this legislation is as effective as possible.

Drug Reimportation
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would allow wholesalers and individuals to import inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada. This dangerous trend threatens to bring a flood of defective medication into the United States. The FDA has warned that foreign drugs would threaten public safety, and the Canadian government has said that it cannot guarantee the safety of drugs reimported from Canada.

Legislation to legalize reimportation of cheaper drugs from abroad has passed twice before, but the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) kept earlier bills from taking effect. The new legislation does not give HHS authority to block reimportation. OPA has supported reimportation by pharmacies.

Here in Ohio we have seen an alarming increase in storefront operations dealing in the reimportation of foreign drugs. A program was recently announced in Butler County using a $100,000 federal Community Development Block Grant to promote a Canadian prescription drug discount program. This program has drawn fire from pharmacists in the area who say that it will hurt local pharmacies financially, uses taxpayers’ money to promote businesses outside the county, and will expose consumers to health risks from drug supplies not monitored by American or Canadian drug regulatory agencies.

The Ohio Attorney General is currently investigating the Butler County program. A letter to the Butler County Commissioner from the State Board of Pharmacy may be found on page 15 of the September 2003 Ohio Pharmacist journal.

Golden Buckeye Prescription Drug Card Update
Word came down in early August that Governor Taft is nearing a release date for his Golden Buckeye discount drug card program. A Taft spokesperson said GlaxoSmithKline is the lone pharmaceutical manufacturer still in negotiations and that the prescription drug plan would be announced by the end of September at the latest. OPA will continue to keep you updated on the specifics of the program, as they are made available.

Current Legislation
As we head into the fall, we look forward to the return of the legislature. We are working toward the passage of SB 43, the Uniform Prescription Drug Card bill. The legislation was temporarily slowed down by the budget bill in the spring, but we expect to see action on this legislation in the fall. We will also be working on HB 146, the Diabetes Coverage bill. Although this bill has broad bipartisan support and a strong grassroots network, it may face some difficulty because it is seen as a mandate bill. There is strong opposition from insurance companies and small business. In addition to following HB 142, the meningitis legislation which passed the House in June and was assigned to the Senate Health committee, OPA would like to see legislation that would remove the word “adult” from the Pharmacy Practice Act when referring to who can receive a vaccination from a pharmacist, and add “persons 14 years and older.” This will be especially helpful with the meningitis vaccine, which is most effective in the 14 to 18 year age range. We will also be closely watching two companion bills that would create prescription drug programs: SB 14, the Prescription Pricing bill introduced by Sen. Bob Hagan; and HB 166, introduced by Rep. Dale Miller.

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