Colorado officials say their plan to import cheaper medicines from Canada has been stymied by opposition from drugmakers and inaction by the Biden administration, according to a state report obtained by KFF Health News.
The Dec. 1 report, prepared for the state legislature by Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, says that state officials approached 23 drugmakers in the last year about an importation program. Only four agreed even to discuss the proposal; none expressed interest in participating.
“Generally, the challenges that remain are outside state authority and rely on action by FDA and/or drug manufacturers,” the report reads.
Lawmakers in both parties, at the state and national level, have sought for decades to legalize importing drugs from Canada. Since 2020, when President Donald Trump’s administration opened the door to Canadian drug imports with regulations issued just weeks before he lost reelection, only a few states have filed applications with the Food and Drug Administration to create importation programs.
The FDA hasn’t yet ruled on any of them. Colorado filed its application in December 2022. Florida, which applied in 2020, has been waiting nearly three years for a decision from the Biden administration on its importation plan, pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, now a Republican presidential candidate.
FDA spokesperson Cherie Duvall-Jones said the FDA has not acted on states’ importation applications because it has not determined whether they would save significant money for consumers without posing risks to public health.
U.S. consumers pay some of the highest prices in the world for brand-name pharmaceuticals. Drugs are generally less expensive in Canada, where the government controls prices.
Under Trump, the federal government declared that importing drugs from Canada could be done safely — satisfying for the first time a condition spelled out in a 2003 law.
But Colorado officials cited another catch: The rule didn’t take into account that states would have to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, which oppose selling their brand-name drugs in the United States at Canadian prices.
“As the federal Final Rule did not contemplate the need for this negotiation step, we have urged FDA to release further guidance regarding how states can operationalize the program with this in mind, but to date, no guidance has been released,” the Colorado report said.
©2023 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.