08 Feb 2018
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Prescription Justice heartily endorses Utah bill HB 163, The Prescription Drug Affordability Act, and applauds Utah Representative Norman Thurston (R-63), its lead sponsor. The bill envisions the federal government permitting Utah to import wholesale quantities of FDA-approved drugs from Canada, which would then be dispensed to patients at retail pharmacies and hospitals in Utah. Canadian wholesale pharmacy prices are much lower on many expensive brand name drugs. Utahans would stand to save hundreds of millions of dollars on their collective pharmacy bill.

The bill’s passage would authorize a study, one lead by the Utah Department of Health on the creation of a wholesale drug importation program, one that would operate in accordance with U.S. law. Specifically, Section 804 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, called Importation of Prescription Drugs, makes wholesale and personal importation of prescription drugs from Canada lawful – but only if the Secretary of Health and Human Services certifies that the practice poses no additional risk to the public’s health and safety and will result in a significant reduction in the cost of covered products to the American consumer. HB 163 endeavors that Utah’s program will receive such certification.

Last week the Utah House Committee on Health and Human Services voted overwhelmingly in favor (9-2) of moving the bill to a vote by the full House. During the public comments session, lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry were there in full force, but their defective arguments fell on deaf ears.

It’s a noteworthy reminder that while the bill does not call for new permissions on personal drug importation, during the committee hearing it was recognized by Representative Edward H Redd (R-4), a practicing physician, that his patients already need to buy lower cost medication internationally because of cost. In our policy paper, we show that President Trump has the executive authority now to permit safe personal importation.

The bill in Utah is expressly not about personal importation and here’s why that’s important. For over 15 years, the pharmaceutical industry, represented by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has used the specter of dangerous rogue online pharmacies and counterfeit drugs to scare the public and policy makers against safe international pharmacy purchases. This bill pulls the rug out from under Big Pharma because the lower-cost medications from Canada must be FDA-approved, expressly in accordance with U.S. law, and dispensed within Utah, not internationally from online pharmacies.

The passage of HB 163 would represent real progress in the fight for lower drug prices in America.

For more on the bill see Rep. Thurston’s website here.

Rep. Thurston’s Op-Ed in the Salt Lake City Tribune in support of safe importation from Canada.

Rep. Thurston lists the following groups as supporters of HB 163.

    •Intermountain Healthcare

    •SelectHealth

    •Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield

    •Prescription Justice

    •Utah Hospital Association

    •AARP of Utah

    •Utah Association of Health Underwriters

    •Utah Health Insurance Association

    •America’s Health Insurance Plans

    •ActionUtah.org

    •Patients for Affordable Drugs NOW

    •National Retiree Legislative Network

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