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Missouri joined Illinois and Wisconsin in a new drug-import program to make cheaper prescription drugs available from Canada and Europe despite a federal ban on the imports.

Missouri Gov. Bob Holden appeared with Gov. Rod Blagojevich at a news conference Thursday in Chicago to announce Missouri's participation in the I-SaveRx drug program. Illinois and Wisconsin launched it this month to offer savings on about 100 medications of up to 50 percent off U.S. retail prices.

"As governors, we're all concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs, especially as it affects those on limited income," Holden said. "It seemed to me the logical next step for Missouri to provide options for safe and affordable prescription drugs for all our citizens."

The program works through a Canadian clearinghouse to connect residents to 45 foreign pharmacies and wholesalers approved by Illinois health inspectors. Only refills are allowed, and narcotics are excluded.

Blagojevich had invited other governors to join in the program.

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