February 17, 2020

Bill creating path for drug imports from Canada sent to governor

Erin DeMay

Flickr / cc

A bill that would create a potential pathway for New Mexico to import prescription drugs from Canada is now on its way to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

The House unanimously approved Senate Bill 1, which calls for the state to create a plan for Canadian drug imports, late Sunday night in a 68-0 vote after the Senate previously passed the measure. The governor expressed support for the proposal in a statement Sunday night.

“This measure received unanimous support through every step of the legislative process because getting New Mexicans the medicine they need at a cost they can afford is a bipartisan, common-sense issue,” the governor said. “I applaud the Legislature for making sure New Mexico is at the front of the line for this program, and I promise to sign Senate Bill 1 quickly so we can begin the process of significantly reducing drug costs.”

The House vote follows the Trump administration’s announcement in December of proposed federal rules to allow states to import prescription medication from Canada. Supporters in New Mexico say Canadian imports could help lower the cost of prescription drugs by expanding the market outside of U.S. borders, where prescription drugs fetch some of the highest prices in the world.

Senate Bill 1 would authorize the state Department of Health to apply for federal approval to import prescription drugs from Canada to New Mexico. It calls for an advisory committee to be formed, made up of Cabinet secretaries and leaders from state agencies to create a drug import plan.

Vermont, Maine, Colorado and Florida have passed similar measures as other states consider it, according to the governor’s office.

It’s a measure that is part of a string of bills the governor supports that her office and supporters argue would cut health care costs and boost access to health care. That includes a plan to institute a cost ceiling for insulin copays of $25 per prescription.

Federally controlled substances, including opioid painkillers, would be excluded from the drug import program. Patients would not be allowed to purchase medications online directly from Canadian drugmakers or other sellers.

The plan would require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Health and Human Services Department, lawmakers have said.