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Vermont Legislature OKs Drug Importation from Canada

By John Commins  
   May 08, 2018

The Green Mountain State's legislature became the first in the nation to approve bulk importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. PhRMA calls the bill 'highly irresponsible.'

The Vermont House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed landmark legislation to allow for the importation of prescription drugs from neighboring Canada.  

The bill, S.175, passed the House 141-2 on Tuesday, a day after its unanimous approval in the Senate, and now heads to Republican Gov. Philip Scott.

No one answered the phone at Gov. Scott's office, so it's not clear if he intends to sign the legislation. Local media are reporting that Scott has not said if he approves of the bill, which his administration has suggested could create problems with the federal government.

It is against federal law for individuals to import drugs from Canada, but states have been mulling the issue for years.

President Donald Trump, during the campaign, said addressing high drug prices would be a priority of his administration. However, he appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the former president of Eli Lilly, who has raised concerns that drug importation could jeopardize public health.  

The drug industry has opposed efforts to import drugs from Canada, but they claim to based their opposition on public safety and quality issues related to online purchases, factors that have been largely debunked by independent analyses.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Director of Public Affairs Caitlin A. Carroll blasted the legislation.

"Patient safety must be our top priority, and our public policies should reinforce – not undermine – that commitment," Carroll said. "It is highly irresponsible for Vermont legislators to promote an importation scheme that would create more avenues for counterfeit drugs to enter the country in the middle of an unprecedented opioid crisis."

Carroll said Vermont lawmakers cannot guarantee the authenticity and safety of imported prescription drugs that bypass the FDA approval process, and that the Canadian government does not inspect drugs shipped to this country.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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