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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Maine Purchases Prescription Drugs Abroad

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A number of states are actively seeking ways to reduce health care costs for residents. One of the biggest costs associated with health care is prescription drugs, a multi-billion dollar industry that is controlled mainly by pharmaceutical companies in the United States.

States are looking outside the country to fulfill their prescription needs at a lower cost, but U.S. companies are not going down without a fight. Maine has passed legislation, making it the first state to allow prescription drugs to be purchased abroad, according to CBS News.

Between 2004 and 2012 Portland, the largest city in Maine, saved millions of dollars filling prescriptions through Canada. Unfortunately, in September 2012, Maine’s attorney general put a stop to the program between Portland, Maine and a Canadian prescription provider, CanaRx. Pressure from U.S. pharmacies prompted the halt of the program which was allowing residents to buy from Canadian pharmacies at a lower cost than U.S. pharmacies, the article notes.

However, a law reinstating the program this month to help deal with the rising cost of health care has been passed by local legislators. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the law “allows us to re-institute a program that has been very successful in the city…Cities across the country are looking at ways to reduce health care costs. One of the most significant cost drivers within health care is the cost of pharmaceutical or prescription drugs.”

Ordering drugs from Canada saved Portland employees more than $3 million from 2004 to 2012, according to Brennan.

Maine is now being sued by pharmaceutical companies over the new law, arguing it “puts Maine residents at risk of serious harm.” The argument is that drugs imported from Canada might be made in other countries with few safety regulations, patients may end up with counterfeit drugs.
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