Wholesale Rx Drug Importation Act Unanimously Passes Senate, Moves to House

SB 1 Would Reduce Costs for Medications, Help New Mexicans Stay Healthy

SB 1, an important piece of legislation sponsored by Senate President Mary Kay Papen and House Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Debbie Armstrong to allow the state to import wholesale prescription medications from Canada, passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and now heads to the House for consideration.

“Too many New Mexicans have to choose between the medications they need and making ends meet,” Armstrong said. “That’s not acceptable. By importing wholesale prescription medications from Canada at lower prices, we will help New Mexicans afford life-saving medications.”

The Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Act specifically creates a committee to develop a plan for New Mexico to begin wholesale drug importation. That plan would then be presented to the U.S. Department of Health by December 2020 for approval under new federal rules allowing this type of importation program. Once the plan is approved by the federal government, the state would immediately contract with wholesalers to begin a purchasing and distribution process that would bring medications from Canada to New Mexico pharmacies, where consumers could buy them.

“New Mexico will be a leader in prescription medication importation,” Armstrong said, referring to the fact that the federal government only recently created rules to allow states to import wholesale drugs from other countries. While four states have put plans forward, no state has yet started importation. “We need innovative programs to help New Mexicans stay healthy.”

Until the plan is fully created, the exact cost savings from an importation program will not be known. However, SB 1 specifies that a drug importation program will only move forward if there are proven savings that will passed on to the consumer.

“This isn’t about creating a new program, it’s about saving consumers money and saving New Mexican lives,” Armstrong said. “If the committee finds that drug importation doesn’t work out to a net savings for New Mexico consumers, the program will not move forward.”

Once an importation program is in place, SB 1 requires rigorous ongoing reporting to ensure cost effectiveness. SB 1 further provides for outreach to educate consumers, for a helpline to help consumers, and for support systems for providers and pharmacists.

The Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Act is carefully crafted to ensure the highest levels of accountability for the program as well as the most-effective outreach to consumers, providers and pharmacists,” Armstrong said.

SB 1 also contains limitations on what medications can be imported. Opioids and biologics, for example, are excluded from importation.

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About Rep. Armstrong: Debbie, Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, is a long-time health care advocate serving her second term in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Having started her career as a physical therapist, she has worked extensively as a health care administrator, working 10 years with Presbyterian Medical Services in Santa Fe. Prior to serving as Secretary of New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Terms Services Department, she oversaw the department’s Consumer and Elder Rights Division. Debbie is the mother of three adult children. She lives in Albuquerque’s North Valley.  Follow her on Twitter @NMRepArmstrong and on Facebook, and sign up for email and text updates.

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