Springfield Gets OK For Canada Rx

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Springfield, Mass. Mayor Michael Albano is making an offer many of his city's workers just can't refuse: a chance to buy American-made drugs from Canada on the city's insurance plan.

The drugs are all from certified, qualified pharmacists in Canada.

It's a deal the mayor took personally to save on his son Mikey's diabetes drugs. And, as CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, what was good enough for the mayor's family turns out to be even better for his city.

Linda Landry and her husband Roger work for the city, and both depend on expensive maintenance medications.

By buying drugs from Canada, the Landry's are able to save $1,200.

The savings for Springfield are no small change either. If all those who are eligible sign up, that could mean an $8 million bonus for the city. It could even save some city jobs.

Albano says budget cuts forced him to lay off 76 officers and 52 firefighters.

"I want to restore those positions as best I can and as soon as I can," he says.

Springfield is saving, but the Food and Drug Administration says the real bottom line is that the imported drugs are risky and unregulated.

"We shouldn't be compromising safety in order to get lower prices; we should aim to get both," says FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan.

Asked if the drugs coming in to Springfield from Canada are unsafe, McClellan says, "We don't know and that's the problem."

But Albano believes the drugs are safe.

"I would not let my 13-year-old son inject himself three times a day with insulin, with these products, if I did not think they were perfectly safe," he says.

Even though the Canadian alternative is already a popular choice among seniors with no prescription coverage, federal officials want to keep it from spreading.

The federal government took the first step Tuesday toward shutting down a company that is supplying cheaper Canadian prescription drugs to city workers and retirees in Springfield, Mass.

But Albano, after a 90-minute meeting with Food and Drug Administration officials Tuesday afternoon, said the legal warning was expected and the company, Detroit-based CanaRX Services Inc., ``has a different interpretation of the law.''

In a warning letter to CanaRX, the FDA said the company may be endangering the health of some customers, and it gave the company 15 days to respond before subjecting it to further prosecution.

Albano said he does not intend to stop dealing with the company to get his 10,000 workers cheaper drugs, and FDA Associate Commissioner William Hubbard said the agency is not considering any action against the city or the mayor.

"I am hoping that every mayor in America goes to Canada to buy their prescription medication for their employee and retirees," says Albano.

Dozens of cities are now considering just that, and they're calling Albano, not the FDA, for help.