Drug Importation in Vermont: An Overview
In May 2018, the Governor of Vermont signed S 175, a bill which directs the Agency of Human Services to design a program for wholesale importation of prescription drugs into Vermont from Canada that complies with federal requirements.
Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, Vermont is required to submit a plan to HHS to import medicine from Canada that meets requirements set in that legislation.
In November 2019, Vermont Governor Phil Scott submitted a concept paper to the federal government outlining the state’s approach to implementing the first-in-the-nation drug importation law. (On August 15, 2019 news outlets reported that Governor Scott had asked to meet with HHS Secretary Alex Azar II to determine whether Vermont would be permitted to run a pilot project in advance of federal rulemaking.)
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
- May 16, 2018: Vermont S 175 is signed into Law
- August 15, 2019: Governor Scott pursues launching a pilot project before federal rules on Canadian drug importation have been approved.
Background / resources
- Vermont Health Care Update: "House Health Panel Turns Attention to Prescription Drugs" (January 27, 2020)
- Vermont Report Finds that the Costs of Prescription Drug Importation May Outweigh Savings (January 15, 2019)
Learn more about
- The Drug Importation Debate
- Fake Medicine in Vermont
- The Importance of U.S. Closed Drug Supply Chain
Testimony Opposing the Bill
- The Association for Accessible Medicines, Testimony Opposing Vermont S. 175, February 5, 2018
- Healthcare Distribution Alliance, Testimony Opposing Vermont S. 175, January 30, 2018
Op-eds from the Experts
In this analysis, which was published in Lexology on October 13, 2020, three global regulatory experts examine barriers to drug importation.
“These drugs would go through additional shipping, inspection and repackaging. Why would they be cheaper?”
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.
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.”
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,…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.