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Colorado's plan to import prescription drugs from Canada pending FDA approval

Colorado drug importation program
Posted at 12:25 AM, Dec 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-07 02:25:51-05

COLORADO — This week Colorado is moving forward with a program hoping to cut the cost of prescription drugs by an average of 65% for consumers.

A proposal sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)on Monday by the state's Department of Health Care Policy and Financing outlines a plan to buy prescriptions from Canada at a lower cost to sell to Coloradans. The 53-page application lists 112 drugs the state hopes to import, including Januvia, a Type 2 diabetes medication, EpiPens, and a medication treating HIV that costs over $6,000.

Lauren Reveley, the drug importation program manager, said the list was determined based on multiple factors, including the cost of the drug, volume used in the U.S., cost of importing, and the amount of the drug held in Canada.

"It includes both brand-name drugs and generics. We have committed to the Canadians that if a drug goes on shortage, we would immediately remove it from our importation list," Reveley said.

Colorado Drug Importation Program
Colorado has partnered with AdiraMedica, a Canadian wholesaler, to purchase drugs for the program. Once ready for exportation, the drugs are purchased by Premier Pharmaceuticals, a wholesaler based in Boise, Idaho, to import to the United States where they are processed to sell at pharmacies in Colorado.

Colorado has partnered with AdiraMedica, a Canadian wholesaler, to purchase drugs for the program. Once ready for exportation, the drugs are purchased by Premier Pharmaceuticals, a wholesaler based in Boise, Idaho, to import to the United States where they are processed to sell at pharmacies in Colorado.

"Premier will be responsible for ensuring that they are tested for authenticity and degradation. Once all of that is completed, and the FDA has approved the test results and the relabeling, they will be distributed to Colorado pharmacies," said Reveley.

The drug importation program has been in the works since 2019 after Colorado legislators first passed the bill allowing the state to import drugs from Canada. Five other states- Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire- are developing their own state programs to import prescription drugs from Canada. Colorado and Florida are the only two that have submitted formal applications to the FDA.

Independent pharmacies like the Medicine Shoppe in Colorado Springs are facing the reality of high prescription costs. Krista Van Lancker, a pharmacist at the location, said the soaring prices are mostly out of their control.

"There's not a lot we can do on our end to bring that price down. There are even times I'm filling brand-new prescriptions at a loss," she said. "I definitely see people having to make a choice between what prescription they can pick up on a given day based on how much money they have."

Reveley said the drug importation plan aims to help independent pharmacies by slashing prices.

"I think it gives them an opportunity to buy lower-cost medications, bring in more customers, you know, and really expand their customer base by having an additional offering," she said.

The FDA has a timeframe of six months to either approve or deny Colorado's formal application. Reveley said if all goes to plan with the process, the imported drugs could hit pharmacy shelves in Colorado by the end of 2023.
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