Drug Importation in New Hampshire: An Overview

map of New Hampshire with a bottle of poisonous Canadian pills

Synopsis:

In January 2020, the New Hampshire legislature introduced SB685, which would require the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to design a wholesale importation program for prescription drugs from Canada by or on behalf of the state and obtain federal approval for the program. In June 2020, SB685 was added to HB1280, which included several other prescription drug initiatives. The bill was signed into law in July 2020.

 

Current status:

New Hamphire's legislature approved HB1280 in June 2020, and Governor Sununu signed it into law the following month.

How should we evaluate this program?

The program hasn't started yet, or even been designed, 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

HB1280: Text of the Bill

SB685: Text of the Bill | New Hampshire State Senate hearing

Testimony opposing SB685:

Op-eds from the Experts

Georgia Sheriff: Keep Dangerous Foreign Opioids Out Of Georgia

August 21, 2017

Terry W. Deese, Peach County, Georgia Sheriff and president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, wrote this editorial for the Macon Telegraph. It was published on July 27, 2017.

“Georgia’s law-enforcement professionals and health officials are scurrying to stop the spread of these harmful pills. But in Washington, Congress may soon make it easier for counterfeit drugs like these — along with illicit prescription medicines — to enter the United States.

This effort doesn’t make any sense. Loosening restrictions on drug importation will worsen the opioid crisis.”

AIDS Drug Assistance Advocate: Drug importation policy is a hard pill to swallow

August 11, 2017

Brandon Macsata, the CEO of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program Advocacy Association, writes about the dangerous unreliability of imported medicines. (Originally published in the The Washington Blade and the ADAP blog.)

Former Attorneys General of Georgia and Florida Speak Out Against Drug Importation

July 24, 2017

The bills before Congress would remove many of the license and oversight requirements on the drugs imported into the United States by lifting those barriers, inviting an influx of bogus pharmaceutical products from the same crime rings that are selling these drugs in other countries around the world that would love better access to the U.S. market.

Law enforcement would inevitably be tasked with policing the problem, at a time when most prosecutors and law enforcement officials have their hands full with the growing opioid crisis. One of the biggest killers is fentanyl, a potent, synthetic opioid pain medication that is being laced into counterfeit pills.

Maryland Pharmacists Association Director: Importing Drugs May Endanger Patients

July 19, 2017

This editorial by Aliyah N. Horton, the executive director of the Maryland Pharmacists Association, was published in the Baltimore Sun on July 19, 2017.

In it, Horton points out the “huge public health risk” posed by buying imported drugs, and urges legislators to vote against unsafe drug importation, and to “seek other avenues to improve patient access, safety and drug affordability.”

Biotechnology Innovation Organization CEO Warns Against Drug Importation

July 14, 2017

In a July 14, 2017 editorial for STAT, Jim Greenwood, the president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), reminds us that the safety risks of buying prescription medicines from other countries are real:

“The debate about drug importation has been underway for decades. Those who support it have never advanced a responsible plan that would provide the same level of health and safety protections that the FDA has delivered for decades. Its rigorous system of rules and protocols ensure that prescription drugs in this country are safe and effective. It protects those high standards by preventing the sale of imported prescription drugs that are not approved for use in the U.S.”

Maine pharmacist: U.S. lawmakers should say no to drug import legislation

July 14, 2017

A few years ago, Maine introduced similar legislation that allowed patients to buy drugs from foreign pharmacies. We, too, wanted to provide patients with lower-cost medicines.

It proved to be a big mistake. Instead of getting drugs from Canada, we got dangerous and ineffective counterfeit pills from other countries. Maine’s disastrous experience with counterfeit Canadian drug imports should serve as a lesson to our lawmakers to say no to drug importation legislation.

Former Head of FDA-OCI: “Proposed drug importation law will worsen U.S. opioid epidemic”

July 11, 2017

The Philadelphia Inquirer published this editorial by George M. Karavetsos, a partner with the global law form DLA Piper, and former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.

Proposed Drug Importation Law Will Worsen U.S. Opioid Epidemic
More than 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine, caused one-fifth of those fatalities. Local law enforcement and health professionals are working at a feverish pace to prevent fatal overdoses. Even librarians in drug-plagued neighborhoods . . .

Canadian Flag - Partnership for Safe Medicines

Executive Director of Cameron Institute “The Hidden Danger Of Loosening Regulations On Prescription Imports”

July 10, 2017

Investor’s Business Daily published this editorial by D. Wayne Taylor, Executive Director of the Cameron Institute, a not-for-profit, public policy think tank specializing in the independent study of health, social and economic issues both in Canada and around the world.

National Medical Association: “Minority Communities Need Better Health Care, Not Counterfeit Drugs”

June 26, 2017

On June 23, 2017, MorningConsult published this editorial by Garfield Clunie and Richard Williams. Clunie is the chairman of the board of the National Medical Association, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that represents African American physicians and their patients. Williams is the organization’s president.

State Boards of Pharmacy weigh in against importing drugs from Canada

June 21, 2017

Pharmacy boards, which ensure the safety of prescription medicines at the state level, have been sending letters to Congress to expressing significant safety concerns about legislation that would legalize drug importation.