Maine First State to Legalize Prescription Drug Imports

Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013 08:44 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Maine has become the first state to allow the direct purchase of mail-order prescription drugs from foreign countries, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The move, which took effect Wednesday under a new first-of-its-kind state law, has already triggered a court battle with the pharmaceutical industry, which argues that allowing foreign purchases could open the door to counterfeit medication and circumvent safety standards set by the Food and Drug Administration.

Supporters of the new law, however, believe the drug industry is more concerned about the effect mail-order drug purchases from other countries will have on profits.

"If Maine can do this, other states will do this. It could have a big impact on pharmaceutical companies' long-term profits and desire to invent new medications," Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University, told the Journal.

"On the other hand, in some areas, [drug makers] need to be brought back in line."

For years, companies and municipalities in Maine have been arranging drug plans with pharmacies in Canada, dramatically cutting annual healthcare costs, while driving down the costs of co-pays for employees, according to the Journal.

The city of Portland, for example, saved $3.2 million between 2004 and 2012 by importing foreign prescriptions for employees. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said there were no safety issues.

More than a dozen states, including Illinois and Kansas, have also looked into the possibility of importing medications. The law in Maine is expected to open a wider debate over access to less-costly drugs, the Journal reports.

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