A state senator wants Hawaii residents to be able to buy Canadian prescription drugs since they’re cheaper than American ones.
Senate Bill 2444 would create a Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program and appropriate money to the Hawaii Department of Health to administer it.
Sen. Russell Ruderman, who introduced the bill, says the legislation is modeled after a law that was passed in Colorado. States including Florida, Maine and Vermont have also passed laws to allow residents to purchase prescription drugs from America’s northern neighbor.
“We’re following the other states that are blazing this trail,” he said. “We’re being ripped off profoundly by the pharmaceutical industry and this is a way to try to get reasonably priced medicine to consumers.”
Last year, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is a senator from Vermont, took a trip with diabetic patients to purchase insulin across the border in Ontario to make a political statement about high U.S. prescription drug costs.
But addressing high American drug costs is something that both Sanders and President Donald Trump have prioritized, despite differences of opinion on why medicine in the U.S. is so pricey.
“The federal government has to approve any plan that the state proposes,” said Ruderman. “They say they will. They have a program to do so and the administration has said it supports this.”
If the bill passes, he expects a roll out would take two to three years.
Canada, on the other hand, may not be keen on the idea. A group of Canadian doctors, patients and pharmacies wrote an open leader to the Canadian health minister, warning that Canada’s medicine supply has already experienced shortages and would not be sufficient to fill American consumer needs.