Committee unanimously approves prescription drug importation plan

Pres. Jackson standing with lawmakers, seniors and health care advocates to unveil a comprehensive prescription drug reform package in 2019.

AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee unanimously approved proposed wholesale prescription drug importation rules from the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday. These rules mark the next step in implementing a new law from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would allow the wholesale importation of prescription drugs from Canada to Maine. 

“Mainers are tired of not being able to afford their lifesaving medication, especially when it’s a fraction of the price across the border. Passing the wholesale importation law last year marked a huge win for Maine people, but it was only step one. Next, the state needs to submit a plan to the federal government and get approval to set up this critical program,” said President Jackson. “Today’s committee vote brings us one step closer to getting Mainers more affordable prescription drugs. It’s also a reminder that if drug pricing reform is going to happen in this country, it’s going to be because states stepped up and demanded change.”

The amended bill requires DHHS to submit an application to the federal government by May 1, 2020. A stakeholder group will meet prior to the deadline to provide input on the state plan to implement wholesale importation. The bill also requires DHHS to submit a new plan if and when the federal government provides more guidance.

President Jackson’s measure was signed into law last year along with a suite of prescription drug reform bills. It received unanimous support in the Senate and strong, bipartisan support in the House.

Maine joined states including Vermont, Florida and Colorado to pass laws regarding wholesale importation. Vermont and Florida have already submitted plans to the federal government for approval. Colorado is currently wrapping up the stakeholder process. The FDA has signaled support for some sort of prescription drug importation program to lower the cost of prescription drugs. 

The bill – LD 2080, “Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Chapter 104: Maine State Services Manual, Section 8, Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Health and Human Services” – faces additional votes in the Senate and House.



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