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Lawmakers in Concord Want to Import Rx Drugs From Canada

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

State Senators began work today on a bill that would clear the way for importing prescription drugs from Canada, following in the wake of several states, including Vermont, which have approved similar measures. 

The lead sponsor of SB 685, Sen. Dan Feltes, a Democrat from Concord, said the program would help residents who struggle with the growing cost of prescription medicines.

“All too often, Granite Staters are choosing between their own health care and their financial security,” Feltes told the Senate Commerce Committee.

Under the bill, the state would be permitted to import a limited variety of prescription drugs, as long as those medicines can meet the FDA’s standards for safety and quality.

The bill has bi-partisan support, including from Gov. Chris Sununu, who took the rare step of testifying in person for the bill.

Vermont’s legislature passed its importation bill in 2018. Since then, states including Maine and Florida have followed suit.

The Trump administration initially opposed the concept, but late last year signaled its willingness to approve an importation scheme. The New Hampshire plan would need federal approval, and could take years to implement.

At Tuesday’s hearing, supporters of the measure, many decked out in red shirts, far outnumbered opponents.

But Toronto resident John Adams, who is with the group Best Medicines Coalition, said Canadians face drug shortages, and aren’t in a position to supply the United States with medicine.

“Canadians are known for our generosity and our affection for our American neighbors,” he testified. “If it were within our wherewithal to share our prescription drug supply with you, we would certainly do so.”

A representative for a pharmaceutical industry trade group also spoke against the bill, arguing that drug importation would not necessarily provide cost savings to states.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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