Drug Industry Sues Maine to Stop Import of Prescription Medicines

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
(photo: Cary Byrd)

The pharmaceutical industry is suing the state of Maine over its new statute legalizing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.


State lawmakers adopted the Importation Law, which took effect in October, to help residents afford their medications. Supporters of the legislation say buying prescriptions through U.S. pharmacies has become too expensive for many Americans, forcing them to seek alternatives, like Canadian imports.


Under the law, licensed retail pharmacies in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom can also export prescription medicines by mail to Maine residents.


But the decision threatens to cut into the profits of U.S. drug manufacturers, which is why they’re now suing to have Maine’s law thrown out before other states try to copy it.


The plaintiffs in the lawsuit (pdf), which include the industry’s main lobbying wing, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), avoid any discussion of their profits. Instead, they argue that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal regulations governing medicine sales.


But the case is really all about money.


The law was inspired by the city of Portland, which back in 2004 gave public employees the option of buying their prescriptions from licensed pharmacies outside the U.S.


The move wound up saving workers hundreds and even thousands of dollars by not buying their medications through U.S. drug stores, and city officials say Portland’s government now saves about $200,000 a year because of the plan.


“Maine is free to choose not to regulate the conduct of pharmacies located in other countries – even if those pharmacies may engage in conduct that violates the FDCA (pdf),” Maine’s attorney general and case defendant Janet Mills responded in her defense (pdf) of the law in federal court.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Maine Sued by Big Pharma Because It Won’t Stop Foreign Drug Imports (by George Chidi, Raw Story)

Maine’s Prescription for Drug Savings: Go Foreign (PBS Newshour)

Charles Ouellette et al. v. Janet Mills (U.S. District Court, Maine) (pdf)


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