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The Sacramento Bee

L.A. drug-buying plan

by Lisa Rapaport
March 19, 2004

Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa has unveiled a proposal that could have the city buy prescription drugs in bulk for its 3.7 million residents.

Under the plan, which could be formally proposed as a city ordinance as soon as next week, Los Angeles might create a nonprofit consortium to buy bulk drugs and then allow residents to fill prescriptions through the city program.

The concept would be to offer some access to affordable drugs to city residents who are uninsured or who do not have adequate prescription benefits through their health insurance plan.

The proposal comes as Los Angeles weighs another proposal by Councilman Dennis Zine to purchase prescription drugs from Canada, where price controls can make medications up to 80 percent cheaper than in the United States.

Because it is against federal law for cities or states to buy drugs from Canada, a spokeswoman for Villaraigosa said the bulk prescription purchasing program should be explored as a possible alternative to Canadian imports.

Zine said he would support any plan that saved Los Angeles residents the most money on drugs, whether that involved Canadian drugs, bulk purchases from U.S. wholesalers, or some combination of the two.