I penned an op-ed for the Bangor Daily News’ weekend edition called “Maine’s Drug Importation Law Does not Endorse Online Pharmacies. Should it?” Maine passed a good law last year, lifting the state’s ban on personal prescription drug imports from pharmacies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. U.S. pharmacists and drug companies want Mainers to believe lifting the ban is not safe even though it is. But is it safe to order medications online from India and even island nations? It can be. In my piece, I examine the issues, which are not black and white and therefore merit an open and honest discussion. It also clarifies the differences between dangerous rogue pharmacy sites that are bad for consumers and safe international ones that help Americans afford prescribed medication.
For those interested in knowing more about this issue please read the International Online Pharmacy Report.
Tagged with: Bangor Daily News, Maine
A couple of news articles from the state of Maine have me wondering if more Mainers are going to start importing medication from international online pharmacies. Maine is the only state that has, through the passage of a law, removed state restrictions on personal drug importation from pharmacies in a number of countries.
An article from the Sun Journal highlights a survey designed to track the impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine (and perhaps these findings will apply to other states, too). Both low and middle-income Maine adults are struggling with medical bills. Surprisingly, 35% of middle-income adults had problems paying bills, compared to 32% of low-income adults. Budget cuts in the state have led to thousands of residents losing Medicaid coverage, so it is likely that the numbers will worsen for low-income adults.
Speaking of budget cuts, Maine Governor Paul LePage did not choose to expand another state program, Mainecare, which helps low-income residents pay healthcare providers. Samantha Edwards, writing for WLBZ, notes that residents who were in these programs are now looking elsewhere for assistance, especially for prescription drugs. The cuts to state programs are forcing municipalities to cover the costs. Rindy Folger, of Bangor Health and Community Services, said, “Since January 1st, we have seen over seventy-five people who we have never seen before who are now coming in looking for help with their medications…Monthly right now we are paying about $9,500 in prescriptions which, over the course of the year, is a significant amount of money for the Bangor taxpayers to have to pay.”
If municipalities like Bangor are going to be picking up the tab for medication, it might be wise for them (or the state) to implement prescription drug importation programs. Portland saved $200,000 a year on health care when it served prescriptions to its employees through PortlandMeds, a prescription drug importation program. It’s very possible – and reasonable – that more municipalities will implement these programs if the Maine’s healthcare cuts continue.
Tagged with: Maine, Obamacare, PortlandMeds
PharmacyChecker.com posted the following press release today. Click here to read it on PharmacyChecker.com
Maine Becomes First State to Legalize Prescription Drug Importation
— PharmacyChecker.com Applauds Historic Law and Helps Consumers to Shop Safely for Medication —
White Plains, New York – Thursday, June 27, 2013 – Today, Maine became the first state to legalize the importation of prescription drugs by individuals, allowing its residents to reduce the cost of obtaining expensive prescription medications by as much as 90%.
“Americans have accessed medication internationally for over the past decade but federal prohibitions on personal drug importation, while not enforced against individuals, have deterred millions. With that regulatory weight lifted in Maine and with proper guidance, more Americans will have access to safe and affordable medication,” said Gabriel Levitt, vice president of PharmacyChecker.com, a consumer website which evaluates the credentials of online pharmacies and provides drug price comparisons.
The Maine legislature overwhelmingly voted in favor of the law, which permits its residents to personally import prescription medication from licensed pharmacies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Maine’s House voted 107-37 in favor of the bill, with seven members absent; the Senate voted 30-4, with one member excused. The bill became law at midnight last night in the absence of a veto or signature by Governor Paul LePage. The bill, LD 171, “An Act To Facilitate the Personal Importation of Prescription Drugs from International Mail Order Prescription Pharmacies,” passed as amendment S-241.
Although several states adopted state-run drug importation programs almost a decade ago, most fell by the wayside because state governments did not widely market the programs. The State of the Kansas, under then Governor Kathleen Sebelius, provided a state web page helping residents access verified international pharmacies online. Ms. Sebelius is now Secretary of Health and Human Services. Maine, however, becomes the first state to formally legalize direct personal drug importation.
Research from the Commonwealth Fund has shown that 50 million Americans are not getting needed medication due to the high price of medications at U.S. pharmacies. “The State of Maine has resoundingly declared that this state of affairs is unacceptable,” added Mr. Levitt.
Founded by Tod Cooperman, M.D. in 2003, PharmacyChecker.com helps consumers safely save money on medication by identifying the lowest drug prices from reputable online pharmacies. It independently checks the credentials of online pharmacies and pharmacy discount cards providing easy comparisons of drug prices. PharmacyChecker.com, based in New York, is privately held with no ownership in or from companies that sell or distribute pharmacy products.
Tagged with: HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, Maine