State lawmakers look to Canada as an option for lower drug prices
A new bill has been introduced in the Ohio Legislature that aims to reduce the price of prescription medication for Ohioans by implementing a state program to import drugs from Canada.
Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Township) is one of the sponsors of the bill, HB715. He said allowing the importing of prescription drugs from Canada — through a program that would be created by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy — will allow the state's residents to get those drugs at a lower cost.
“Times are tough now. People have to make very, very difficult choices on whether to pay their rent, their house payment, their car payment, food, now drugs and medicine," Young said.
Young said 22 other states are also pursuing the importing of prescription drugs from Canada. He expects the bill will have bipartisan support and hopes it will be taken up when state lawmakers come back to the General Assembly in November.
Others considering proposal
That bipartisan support could come from members like Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) who is on the Ohio House Health committee, where the bill is likely to be considered.
She said she is open to the idea and will be looking into how it could be implemented. She questioned whether the Canadian drug market, which is much smaller than the one in the U.S., could handle the increased demand for drugs. And she said she will be talking to lawmakers in other states to see how they implemented a plan like this. But she said this bill is just one thing that could be done to help lower drug costs.
"I think we've got a bunch of middlemen who are in between the drugs, the doctors, the patients, and pharmacies. And we need to look at how we set up our prescription drug program here in Ohio and what are some of the ways that we can cut that by controlling a little more of who has their hand into the pie," Lightbody said.
The cost savings
How much will Ohioans save under this bill? Young said he's not really sure. But he said it will be significant when you consider how a similar plan is playing out in Florida.
“We are talking millions of dollars. Florida, alone, said in just the first year alone, up to $150 million a year for Florida citizens,” Young said.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, most Americans support the idea of importing drugs from Canada to lower costs. In a poll, 78% of Americans said they favor importing drugs from Canada.
In the past, there has been one key group that has opposed importing drugs from Canada. Drug makers have long contended doing so would make drugs less safe. But Young said U.S. citizens and citizens of Ohio pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world and he said that must stop now.