Vermont becomes first state to allow imported drugs from Canada

Vermont becomes first state to allow imported drugs from Canada
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Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) on Wednesday signed a law permitting the import of prescription drugs from Canada into the state. 

Proponents of the law, which has been opposed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE's health officials as well as pharmaceutical companies, believe it will help fight rising drug prices. It was widely supported in Vermont's Democratic-controlled state legislature.  

The law must still be certified by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

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The move puts the state at odds with the Trump administration. HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Monday called the idea of importing drugs from another country a "gimmick."

Drug companies have also criticized such plans, with the lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) maintaining that "patient safety must be our top priority."

“Lawmakers cannot guarantee the authenticity and safety of prescription medicines when they bypass the FDA-approval process, and the Canadian government does not inspect or take responsibility for the legitimacy of prescription medicines shipped to the U.S.," PhRMA said in a statement.

"The burden of combating illicit drugs would fall on local law enforcement officials, who lack the capacity to inspect even a small percentage of increased counterfeit drugs, but who have witnessed their impact in communities across the state,” it added.

In the past, President Trump has supported drug importation from overseas, which was a plank of his health-care reform proposal as president-elect.

The Vermont law is built on model legislation from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP). Eight states proposed similar legislation this year, but Vermont’s is the first to be signed into law.

Specifically, the law lets a wholesaler in the United States import drugs from a wholesaler in Canada. According to NASHP’s website, prescription drugs cost 30 percent less in Canada.

Several other states allow individuals to import drugs from other countries, but not wholesalers. Trish Riley, NASHP’s executive director, argues that requiring wholesalers to import the drugs is a key distinction that provides assurances the drugs coming into the state would be safe.

“Our model legislation assures safety and savings by buying drugs through the existing supply chain, so that all the checks and balances are in place to assure safety,” she said.

Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Poll finds Libertarian Senate candidate running ahead of GOP in New Mexico Senate GOP targets musicians Ben Folds, Jason Isbell as 'unhinged left' ahead of rally for Dem candidate MORE (I) proposed a similar law last year. 

Updated at 2:39 p.m.