With lies and deception, Big Pharma has used the threat posed by rogue websites and counterfeit drugs to push back against U.S. state legislation to gain access to lower drug prices in Canada. Regardless, several states have passed laws toward creating importation programs: Colorado, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Vermont. Simple summary: Canada’s brand drugs are priced much lower and states want access to them. These state laws have largely been confined to wholesale drug importation. That is, until this week when California Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager introduced the Affordable Prescription Drug Importation Act, AB 458. The bill not only calls for wholesale importation from Canada – but also personal drug importation from Canada and other countries, subject to Section 804 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It’s about time!
The bill states:
“This bill would authorize an individual to import a prescription drug only for use by that individual or a member of that individual’s immediate family from a foreign pharmacy if specified requirements are met. The bill would prohibit an individual from, among other things, importing a prescription drug for resale or a controlled substance.”
This is a huge step in the right direction because Americans are already buying medications internationally. Millions have done so from safe international online pharmacies – and the law technically permits this through enforcement discretion, but they should have “express permission.” As I stated in a press release yesterday:
“Assemblymember Kamlager recognizes that millions of Americans are already buying medications internationally because they can’t afford them here… AB 458 gives those people a voice by finally providing them with express permission to do so.”
To date, state laws have strongly relied on model state legislation on drug importation drafted by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP). The NASHP model legislation is focused solely on wholesale importation from Canada and explicitly does not cover personal dug importation. Florida’s law opens the door to importation beyond Canada – but the importers cannot be individuals.
As I understand it, NASHP believes that a regulatory framework for safe wholesale drug importation is more practical. The channel of importation is confined to a wholesaler in Canada exporting FDA-approved drugs to a state-licensed wholesaler in the United States. Drug company scare tactics about rogue websites won’t work here.
You can expect Big Pharma to attack the California bill. The hope is that a real, objective analysis of personal drug importation will occur in the California legislature. Americans can and do safely buy much more affordable prescription drugs from licensed pharmacies in other countries through travel and ordering online. There’s no gray in that statement. PharmacyChecker’s verifications help by providing them the information to do so safely. The government can and should do this, too.