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Are you a Colorado citizen or healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, who is concerned about the steps Colorado is taking to expose citizens to drugs from outside the secure supply chain? Please reach out to us at editors@safemedicines.org.

Drug Importation in Colorado: An Overview

map of colorado with pill bottle displaying a maple leaf label. The label peels back to show a poison symbol

Synopsis:

In May 2019, the Governor of Colorado signed SB19-005, a bill which creates a "Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program" in the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

first page of colorado SIP analysis

Read PSM's analysis of Colorado's March 2020 Draft Importation Plan

Current status:

Colorado published a draft proposal of the program in March 2020 along with comments to HHS on the proposed federal importation guidelines. Their comments revealed that the architects of the plan don't think importation can work financially as designed because of the small size of the Canadian drug supply and the cost requirements of testing.

 

PSM has documented several problems with the draft proposal for Colorado's program in this analysis.

How should we evaluate this program?

The program hasn't started yet so there's no way to measure whether it saved money or kept patients safe, both promises made at the time of passage. However, the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act contains requirements for safety requirements built into any such program.

Official actions and statements

  • October 15, 2020: The Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing updates stakeholders: Slides
  • September 23, 2020: Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar certified that Canadian drug importation would pose no additional threats to consumers and would save Americans a significant amount of money on prescription drugs.
  • June 10, 2020: The House Committee on Health & Insurance postponed SB20-119, which would have expanded Colorado's importation program beyond Canada, indefinitely.
  • March 9, 2020: Colorado releases draft importation proposal and appendices.
  • February 13, 2020: Colorado Health and Human Services Committee hearing on SB 119
  • January 2020: The Colorado legislature considers SB20-119, which would expand importation from Canada to prescription drug suppliers from other nations.
  • May 16, 2019: Colorado SB19-005 is signed into Law
  • October 11, 2019: The Department for Healthcare and Public Financing issues RFIs to pharmacies and wholesalers.
  • November 2019: Colorado's Department of Health Care Policy & Financing held webinars to engage stakeholders: Slides

Planning documents

Op-eds from the Experts

“…barriers will delay or prevent drug importation,” say regulatory experts

October 14, 2020

In this analysis, which was published in Lexology on October 13, 2020, three global regulatory experts examine barriers to drug importation.

Sarah Ruth Bates

“These drugs would go through additional shipping, inspection and repackaging. Why would they be cheaper?”

September 2, 2020

In this editorial, which was published in WBUR’s Cognoscenti on September 2, 2020, writer Sarah Ruth Bates explains why Canadian drug importation is too expensive and elaborate a solution to be effective.

Photo of patient advocate John Adams

Canadian patient advocate urges American friends to reject the “empty promises” of importation

August 14, 2020

In this August 14, 2020 editorial, Best Medicines Coalition chair John Adams explains why Canadian importation will not lower U.S. medicine prices—and why the “concept of cheap drugs from Canada has never been anything more than a political hallucination.”

Former FDA Associate Commissioner Warns of the “Massive Safety Risks of Importation”

March 3, 2020

This editorial by Peter J. Pitts was published in The Times Weekly on March 3, 2020. Mr. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner. Keep Canadian drugs out of U.S. medicine cabinets The Trump administration recently proposed two rules that would allow states, pharmacies,…

photo of Ujjal Dosanjh

Canadian drug importation is “an economic fantasy,” former Canadian health minister says.

March 2, 2020

In this editorial in The Globe and Mail, Ujjal Dosanjh, formerly a federal minister of health and a premier of British Columbia, explains that drug manufacturers have no incentive to sell Canadian provinces more medicine to fill the needs of U.S. residents. Importation will lead to drug shortages in Canada and counterfeit drug trafficking to the U.S.

Canadian health law experts predict: Canada won’t end up as the drugstore to the U.S.

January 16, 2020

This editorial by David C. Rosenbaum and Dara Jospé was published in the Financial Post on January 16, 2020. Rosenbaum is a partner of the law firm Fasken. Jospé is an associate for the same company.

Academic Warns That State Drug Importation Proposals Threaten Patients and Innovation

January 10, 2020

This editorial by Dr. Kristina M. L. Acri née Lybecker was published in IP Watchdog on January 2, 2020. Dr. Acri is an Associate Professor of Economics at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and Chair of the Department of Economics and Business.

Emory Health Policy Professor Says Drug Importation a Danger to Patient Health

October 8, 2019

This editorial by Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe was published in Town Hall on October 8, 2019. Dr. Thorpe is a professor of health policy at Emory University and chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

photo of the author, C. Michael White

Pharmacy professor: buying prescription drugs from Canada “risky in terms of quality and safety”

September 27, 2019

This editorial by C. Michael White was published in The Conversation on September 27, 2019. White is a professor and head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice for the University of Connecticut.

Former FDA Associate Commissioner Says Canada Cannot Be America’s Pharmacy

September 12, 2019

This editorial by Peter J. Pitts was published in The Washington Times on September 11, 2019. Mr. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner.