A New Can Of Worms
19 September 2003
Civil Service Commission Hands Governor His Head

Hot Rod got pasted over wrongfully firing state workers he claimed broke the rules. Apparently the Civils Service Commission disagreed when they looked at it:

"Twenty-seven government employees fired by Gov. Rod Blagojevich soon after he took office in January should be reinstated immediately, a state panel ruled Thursday.

In a 3-2 vote, the Illinois Civil Service Commission upheld an administrative law judge's opinion that the mid-level managers were hired properly under rule changes that retiring Republican Gov. George Ryan pushed through a legislative committee late last year."

The Governor plans to appeal to circuit court. That may make him look vindictive and political. It's probably time to back off and take your lumps. Raising the stakes may work to just further embarrass you.
So Much for Studying the Issue

Blagojevich wants Canadian drugs in today's SJ-R:

"Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Thursday he will ask the Food and Drug Administration to reverse a ban on state and local governments importing low-cost drugs from Canada.

Blagojevich also said he is soliciting support from the country's other 49 governors in his effort to get the FDA to change its mind.
'The high cost of prescription drugs is not a partisan issue. It is a problem in every single state,' he said.

Last Sunday, Blagojevich announced that his administration will study the pros and cons of allowing state government employees and retirees covered by state health insurance to buy prescription drugs from Canada."

18 September 2003
Jonathan Rauch Asks If Frankenfood Will Save The Planet?

I don't know if it will "save the planet," but I do know that genitically modified foods will save a lot of lives...

This should be a must read...

Thanks to AL Daily for bringing this to my attention.
Your State Government At Work

SJ-R has a story today about a Dept. of Human Services Executive who ran her administrative assistant like a personal valet:

"The state settled a union grievance Wednesday against a longtime top official with the Illinois Department of Human Services. The grievance charged that Audrey McCrimon had required an office assistant to fix her lunch and check her into a hotel as regular job duties.

McCrimon, 50, serves as head of compliance access and workplace safety at an annual salary of $108,576. She reports directly to DHS Secretary Carol Adams.

McCrimon had served as director of the Department of Rehabilitation Services before it was merged into DHS. She began her employment with the state in 1990."

And it would sooooo heartless towards the disadvantaged to cut DHS's budget... Breaking news... It's not about the disadvantaged....It's about bureaucrats' fiefdoms...
The Grass is Greener

Atlantic Blog's William Sjostrom suggests some ways we can be more like Europeans.
17 September 2003
The Institute's Latest

The latest Institute Commentary addresses a simple economic lesson:

"When government hikes taxes government tends to receive less revenue than expected and when government cuts taxes government tends to lose less revenue than opponents of tax cuts contend. This is because changes in tax policy influence the way economic actors behave. It’s simple – really -- if you want less of something tax it, if you want more, don’t.

This simple generalization is important to know to if you are going to successfully govern a large state.

One person apparently oblivious to this is Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich..."

Pushing the Panic Button

The Heartland Institute's Conrad F. Meier asks "Where Has Your Prescription Been?"

"Last July, Springfield, Massachusetts launched a program encouraging the city’s 20,000 employees and retirees to fax their prescription drug orders to a group of Ontario pharmacies and get their medications by return mail. The city expected to cut drug benefit spending by $4 million.

To test the safety of Springfield’s program, federal Food & Drug Administration officials ordered drugs, including insulin, from Michigan-based CanaRx under an assumed name and address. According to Peter Pitts, associate FDA commissioner for external affairs, the insulin loses effectiveness at higher temperatures and is supposed to be shipped overnight to ensure it remains chilled. The drugs arrived in the regular mail and at room temperature."

So much for pushing the panic button. And as Congress addresses the reimportation issue, let's look at some other great examples Conrad offers:

"Turkey, 1993: A pharmacist tries to sell baking powder to a patient as a genuine prescription drug. He is arrested by police.

Haiti, 1996: At least 88 children die after taking counterfeit antipyretic syrup for relief of pain and fever.

Lebanon, 1998: Interpol, the international police agency, says an immense factory in the Bekaa Valley may be the world’s largest producer of counterfeit medication, including Viagra. An Israeli Health Ministry spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post, “According to experts, 80 percent of the Viagra sold world-wide on the black market is not the real drug. What is ironic is that the black-market pills cost twice the price of Viagra gotten by prescription.”

Kansas City, 2002: Authorities arrest a local pharmacist for diluting cancer drugs given to hundreds of patients while selling the medications at full price.

Florida, 2003: Concerns about the safety of drugs surfaced after prosecutors announced a grand jury had indicted 19 people on charges of watering down or selling fake prescription drugs to businesses selling prescription medications to consumers. The drugs are often prescribed for AIDS and cancer patients.

Nebraska, 2003: A counterfeit version of Pfizer’s Lipitor, the world’s top-selling cholesterol-lowering medication, was recently discovered after pharmacists and patients complained their medication tasted unusually bitter and dissolved too quickly."

As a munitions loader on A-10's and F-4's I learned two valuable lessons. The first is that you don't screw with things that can kill you. The second is that there is no such thing as a stupid question when you are dealing with things that can kill you -- although truthfully in later years I did meet some airmen who could push that point.

Check out the entire piece because Meier offers suggests some questions to ask and who you should direct them to.
16 September 2003
More on Re-Importation

Reimportation rears its ahead again today in the SJ-R. In Illinois, it seems, the debate completely revolves around whose ox gets gored financially. There are other issues at stake, yet we can't seem to get past motivations:

"Pharmacists cite the lack of FDA oversight of reimported drugs as dangerous, claiming consumers have no way of knowing if the drug is authentic, of the correct dosage or past its expiration date.

A Blagojevich spokeswoman said pharmacists are pushing the panic button, noting the governor had only asked for a study of the issue....

...The increasing costs of prescription drugs have consumers listening more often to their wallet than their pharmacist. Senior citizens living in border states have for the past several years boarded buses bound for Canada, intent on getting Canadian physicians to write prescriptions they can fill at local pharmacies. More recently, online pharmacies based in Canada and other foreign countries have proliferated, offering a variety of prescription drugs at discounted prices...

...Jacoby also said the governor's suggestion makes no economic sense in that it would drive business dollars out of the state.

"It's just a slap in the face to Illinois citizens," Jacoby said.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association agreed. Although no statistics exist about the volume of prescriptions purchased from Canada, Rob Karr said Illinois is losing "probably tens of millions of dollars."

Karr also said some municipalities garner funds by levying a 1 percent tax on prescriptions.

Prescription-drug costs and re-importation are hot-button political issues as states grapple with ever-increasing drug prices that often prove to be a budget-buster. But the president of the Illinois Pharmacists Association said the governor's proposal sidesteps the real issue.

"For the sake of saving money, this is a simplistic solution," said Chuck Sauer, who also serves as executive director of the National Pharmacists Association. "

First, if Blagojevich didn't want this to happen then he wouldn't have ordered the study. As Governor you don't float this balloon unless you want to run with it. Second, there are real issues at stake around safety and reliability of drugs -- not to mention the supply chain. Massingale's story basically frames the issue as interests groups dividing up the spoils: Pharamacists, retailers and local officials vs. the Governor and seniors.

Prescription drugs are about far more than saving money, they are about saving lives. Pharamaceuticals are far more complex with myriad categories and potential effects on patients. Many times you try a prescription only to have to switch a week or two later. What about AIDS, cancer cocktails and even blood pressure medication? How will this affect the doctor patient -- as well as the patient-pharmacist -- relationship in these circumstances?

A better take on the issue comes from my colleague in Maine, Bill Becker. He points out that:

"One thing should be made very clear: The debate over reimportation is not about Maine people boarding a bus bound for Canada in search of cheaper prescription drugs. That practice goes on now and, while it is illegal, both the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection allow people to bring into the country small amounts of prescription drugs for personal use. Reimportation is about opening the door to a massive influx of prescription drugs from other countries with little or no control over, or knowledge of, who is supplying the products and the quality of what is coming in.

In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that roughly 6 percent of the world drug supply is counterfeit. In countries like Pakistan that number jumps to half; in Africa it jumps to 70 to 80 percent. Thankfully the U.S. has managed to protect our drug products from those counterfeit, diluted, mishandled and mislabeled products that exist throughout the world."

I think the pharmacists are correct to "push the panic button." Somebody should.

Free Trade vs. My Re-importation Stand

Sometimes we have to deal with competing principles in public policy. Security vs. freedom in the war against terrorists is one such example. Re-importation of prescription drugs is another.

Natural rights or natural law -- whichever you prefer (even though there are differences) boil down to the (right of) life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Under natural law as explained by the ancient Greek philosophers these laws were consistent with the three irrefutable truths about what is good. Under the anglo-scottish enlightment these laws became rights.

Order was important to the originators of these doctrines because you could not pursue happiness without liberty and you couldn't be free if you weren't alive. This suggests a heirarchy in rights or laws (again whichever you prefer). Free trade is about liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Prescription drugs are about life and death. In determining which principle to fall back on when confronted with this conflict in principles, I choose to begin with this heirarchy.

My point here is that my decision to choose between conflicting principles is based on some kind of rationale rooted in thought.
15 September 2003
Drug Re-importation

Illinois is studying importing Canadian drugs.

First, it is illegal to do so because safety cannot be guaranteed. Next there are concerns over storage and distribution of drugs. Then there is the issue of conterfeit or tainted drugs.

My guess is that the Blagojevich Administration will ignore these concerns and that the dye has already been cast. This study of the issue is just perfunctory. I mean, hey, there are 1.5 million senior votes they're trying to buy here. Why let safety stand in the way of that?
Kudos to ArchPundit

ArchPundit picks up on the Comptroller's office spending the Feds free money resulting from the President's Economic and Jobs Growth Plan without legislative approval.

This summer the Institute suggested the Governor use that money to offset his tax hikes on business.

According to the Crain's story ArchPundit links to, the legislature still gets a say in the matter so I'm still hopeful they will step up and take some of the burden away from business.

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