Nevada gets the jump on Canadian drugs

Nevada's decision to push ahead with Canadian drug purchases is looking better all the time.

The Legislature approved and the governor signed a bill to allow the state's residents to purchase drugs from pharmacies in Canada through an Internet site. It will take some months yet for pharmacies to be approved and the Web site set up, but that still puts Nevada ahead of most of the rest of the nation.

So far, residents of Illinois, Vermont, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin can use a drug clearinghouse to import medicine from Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Minnesota and Wisconsin have state-operated Web sites for drugs from Canada.

Congress may eventually get around to legalizing the sales between countries on a federal level, but there's no guarantee that will happen - or when. The pharmaceutical industry is fighting four such proposals in Washington, D.C., President Bush has said he opposes the move, and the Food and Drug Administration warns it cannot vouch for the safety of drugs from other countries.

The pharmaceutical companies have no one to blame but themselves, of course, for making drugs in the United States cost more than anywhere else in the world. Instead of using its political clout - and angering customers in the process - the most straightforward way to head off a flight over the border is to slash prices. Too simple, huh?

As for the FDA, the warning should be taken for what it is. Of course it can't vouch for the safety of those drugs it hasn't inspected. But Canadian officials say their country's standards are higher than the United States'.

To the consumer, it means only one thing - paying half as much, in many instances, for the same prescription medications. The rising cost of health care in America, especially for senior citizens, has been most evident at the pharmacy counter.

While Congress stews and Canada decides whether to ban bulk drug exports, Nevadans won't have to wait much longer to be a bit healthier, a bit wealthier and maybe even feel a little wiser.


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