4:51 PM
 | 
May 16, 2018
 |  BC Extra  |  Politics & Policy

Vermont becomes first state to allow Canadian drug imports

Gov. Phil Scott (R-Vt.) signed a bill into law Wednesday making Vermont the first state with a statute that allows for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

In a speech in Washington on Wednesday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar called proposals to import drugs from other countries such as Canada "a gimmick." "It has been assessed multiple times by the Congressional Budget Office, and CBO has said it would have no meaningful effect." Azar reasoned Canada's drug market is "simply too small" to bring down U.S. prices.

Azar also said the import of drugs cannot be safety regulated. "The last four FDA commissioners have said there is no effective way to ensure drugs coming from Canada really are coming from Canada, rather than being routed from, say, a counterfeit factory in China."

Under the new law, Vermont will establish a wholesale bulk purchasing program and require drug manufacturers to provide notice before introducing new, "high-cost" drugs to the market. The law will also require health insurers to provide information about the effect of drug spending on premium rates.

HHS must certify and approve the program, and the state's General Assembly must first pass legislation to provide funding before it can be implemented.

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