Illinois’ experience with iSaveRX, 2004–2009

Between 2004 and 2009 a number of states experimented with drug importation from countries that supposedly had online pharmacies offering cheaper medications. Illinois was a leader in this area, spending significant state resources marketing and promoting the program while working with Ram Kamath, who later became Director of Pharmacy Policy and International Verifications at PharmacyChecker. The other states that joined included Kansas, Wisconsin, Vermont and Missouri.

The program involved significant expenditures of state money for marketing and international travel. State employees traveled to foreign countries to inspect and certify entities that were going to dispense medication to Americans, but state workers had no legal authority to regulate these entities, and the foreign “pharmacies” were untouchable by US law should they harm an American patient.

In 2006, the Illinois Auditor General reviewed iSaveRX and found a number of problems:

  • 40% of the required inspections of the foreign entities claiming to be pharmacies were never completed, putting patients at risk of getting medication from an entity that may not have any pharmacy license at all. Many of the inspection forms were unreadable by auditors.
  • None of the entities ever obtained a pharmacy license from the Illinois Board of Pharmacy, leaving patients with no regulator to protect them from mistakes or problems with the dispensing entity.
  • The state’s attempt to inspect the foreign entities that filled prescriptions for patients revealed that entities that had not been approved were filling prescriptions anyway, in violation of state law.
  • Staff that did travel to foreign countries to inspect foreign pharmacies were specifically not authorized to do so under Illinois law, which clearly delineates who is and isn’t allowed to inspect pharmacies.
  • The program ended in 2009 and was not renewed by Illinois or any of the states that participated. ISaveRX architect Ram Kamath went on to become a senior executive with, where he remained until 2015, when he was indicted as part of a large international criminal ring that smuggled fake cancer medication into the US and sold it to physicians.

Governor Blagojevich was indicted and convicted on 17 unrelated corruption charges in 2011.