HI: Bill Would Let Hawaii Residents Buy Medicine From Canada

Honolulu Civil Beat –

If it passes, Hawaii would be the fifth state allowing importation of drugs from north of the border.

A state senator wants Hawaii residents to be able to buy Canadian prescription drugs since they’re cheaper than American ones.

Senate Bill 2444 would create a Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program and appropriate money to the Hawaii Department of Health to administer it.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, who introduced the bill, says the legislation is modeled after a law that was passed in Colorado. States including Florida, Maine and Vermont have also passed laws to allow residents to purchase prescription drugs from America’s northern neighbor.

“We’re following the other states that are blazing this trail,” he said. “We’re being ripped off profoundly by the pharmaceutical industry and this is a way to try to get reasonably priced medicine to consumers.”

According to the Hawaii Opioid Action plan, Hawaii has “not yet experienced the magnitude of the opioid crisis seen in other parts of the country,” but neighbor island doctors are seeing its effects.

Last year, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is a senator from Vermont, took a trip with diabetic patients to purchase insulin across the border in Ontario to make a political statement about high U.S. prescription drug costs.

But addressing high American drug costs is something that both Sanders and President Donald Trump have prioritized, despite differences of opinion on why medicine in the U.S. is so pricey.

“The federal government has to approve any plan that the state proposes,” said Ruderman. “They say they will. They have a program to do so and the administration has said it supports this.”

If the bill passes, he expects a roll out would take two to three years.

Canada, on the other hand, may not be keen on the idea. A group of Canadian doctors, patients and pharmacies wrote an open leader to the Canadian health minister, warning that Canada’s medicine supply has already experienced shortages and would not be sufficient to fill American consumer needs.

Canadian drug distributors have openly opposed the plan, and Canada could also take legal action to stop any future U.S. importation of its prescription drugs.

Many U.S. pharmaceutical companies already bar wholesalers in other countries from exporting drugs to the U.S. in legal contracts.

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National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators Federal Tax ID: 52-1660752 / DUNS Number: 073539913

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