House passes bill to import prescription drugs from Canada

May 3, 2018 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont House has passed a bill that would allow the state to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

The bill had strong support Wednesday, passing in a vote of 141-2, Vermont Public Radio reported.

The bill will create a state entity that acts like a wholesaler and buys the drugs in Canada and then sells them in Vermont pharmacies, said Democratic Rep. Bill Lippert.

The measure was driven by the skyrocketing costs of prescription medications, he said.

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“It’s just impossible to access them unless you have really adequate health insurance, and sometimes even having adequate health insurance is not sufficient,” he said.

Before the plan can be implemented, a waiver from the federal government is needed, which Lippert is hopeful will happen next year, given that the Trump administration has shown a strong interest in reducing prescription drug costs.

The deal is expected to save residents millions.

“The proposal is to be able to import safe, reliable, cheaper prescription drugs,” said Lippert.

While opponents say Canadian drugs aren’t safe, Democratic Sen. Claire Ayer has called that claim “baloney” because a large number of Canadian prescription drugs are made in the U.S.

The concept of importing prescription drugs in order to save money is not new. Vermont’s then-U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders took busloads of people to Canada in 1999, where doctors wrote them prescriptions for drugs that cost a fraction of what they would have paid for them in the U.S. Sanders, now an independent U.S. senator, introduced another proposal last year to allow for the drug importation from Canada.

Federal law was changed in 2003 to allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to authorize the importation of prescription drugs, but such permission has never been granted.

The Vermont bill will return to the Senate, where lawmakers will consider either passing the House version or making changes.

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Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net