Vermont Sues FDA

Over Drug Importation

Vermont sued the Food and Drug Administration yesterday over the agency's opposition to the state's plan to help its employees and retirees import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

Vermont is the first of many states interested in importing drugs to sue the federal government, which says buying medicines from abroad may pose health risks.

"Vermont will not sit back and watch as the cost of health insurance and prescription drugs continues to rise," Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) said in a statement.

The state is seeking a court order that will require "prompt adoption" of regulations allowing importation and "appropriate consideration" of Vermont's plan, Douglas's office said.

Importing medicines is illegal unless the U.S. health secretary affirms it can be done safely. Vermont sought a federal waiver to start a pilot program but was turned down.

FDA officials say they are worried about drugs bought over the Internet that purport to be from Canada but originate in Thailand, China or other countries. Vermont says its plan would prevent that.

Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Minnesota already have defied the FDA by setting up plans to help residents import medicines, mainly from Canada where prices for many drugs are lower than in the United States.

FEC Won't Limit Giving

To Voter Drives

Wealthy members of Congress can give unlimited amounts of their own money to groups for get-out-the-vote drives even though they are barred from raising big checks for their campaigns or others, election officials said.

The Federal Election Commission's 5 to 1 ruling came in response to a request by Sen. Jon S. Corzine, a wealthy New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Corzine gave more than $2 million to Democratic causes in the 2001-02 election cycle before the nation's campaign finance law barred national party committees and congressional and presidential candidates from raising or spending corporate, union and unlimited donations known as "soft money."

Corzine asked the FEC whether he could still make big donations to groups conducting voter registration activities despite the law's broad soft-money ban. The FEC said yes -- as long as he was not giving such big amounts that the organization would be considered financed by him.

While running for the Senate in 2000, Corzine spent $60 million of his own money.

No. 2 Official at FBI

To Retire in October

Bruce J. Gebhardt, the FBI's number two official, will retire after a 30-year career. Gebhardt became a special agent in 1974 and has been deputy director for the past two years.

Gebhardt served in field offices in Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark and Phoenix as well as at headquarters in Washington. He received the FBI Medal of Valor for action during an airplane hijacking in 1976 in Denver.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III praised Gebhardt's service.

His retirement is effective in October; he has accepted a job in industry.

-- From News Services