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Plan identifies 112 drugs that could save Coloradans up to $88 million annually

Saving people money on healthcare would seem to be a no-brainer; low-income parents of kids with asthma know the high cost of inhalers can present a health risk for their children. Seniors with diabetes have seen huge increase in the cost of insulin.

On Monday, in an announcement that is making national headlines, the Polis-Primavera administration and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (Department) submitted Colorado’s proposal to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to import prescription drugs from Canada.

The Polis administration has identified up to 112 different drugs and medicines that could be offered through the Canadian Drug Importation Plan, saving Coloradoans money. Photo by Ksenia-Yakovleva on Unsplash

The submission is the first step in requesting federal approval to operate Colorado’s Canadian Drug Importation Program, which aims to save Colorado consumers and employers an average of 65 percent on imported medications. The Department’s recent analysis shows that importation could result in $53 to $88 million in savings annually, depending on market adoption.

“This exciting step means we are closer to savings for Coloradans as we continue to take bold action to make prescription drugs and health care more affordable. We promised on day one to save people money on health care, and we are getting it done,” said Governor Jared Polis. “Colorado’s Drug Importation Program is a major piece in our work to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and this final step gets us even closer to making lower health costs a reality for Coloradans. Now, all we need is FDA approval and Coloradans will start saving money!”

Polis signed the landmark and bipartisan SB19-005 in 2019, solidifying his commitment to save people money on health care and to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. It authorized the department to seek approval from the federal government to establish an importation program that will provide access to Canada’s lower-priced drugs to Colorado employers and consumers.

Canadian Drug Importation Plan

In August, the administration announced the selection of the three primary partners for the program, which sets up the supply chain for eligible prescription drugs to securely move through on their journey to Colorado.

Including and beyond those three primary partners the program consists of a unique team of wholesalers, a qualified laboratory, a re-labeler, and a reporting partner that meets all federal requirements. This will ensure that high-quality prescription medications from Canada arrive safely at Colorado pharmacies.

“By pursuing this plan to make lower-cost prescription drugs available in our state, we are taking action to make sure that no Coloradan has to choose between their health and their finances,” said Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera, Director of the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care. “This is an important step in our ongoing work to save people money on healthcare and ensure that all Coloradans have access to affordable and equitable care.”

As a national leader in addressing the high cost of prescription drugs, the Department released a report outlining solutions to the prescription drug affordability challenges facing Coloradans and their employers. Colorado is advancing Canadian importation as one of these solutions.

It is a fact established by the Polis administration that Coloradans and their employers are paying much more for the same prescription drugs than their Canadian counterparts. It asserts that drug importation from Canada will allow Colorado consumers and employers to pay a fair price for their medications.

“Our Importation Program, once approved by the FDA, will bring meaningful savings to Colorado consumers and employers,” said  the executive director of the Department Kim Bimestefer. “Dozens of commonly used, life-saving drugs can be imported through Canada for pennies on the dollar. As examples, Jardiance, a drug used to treat Type II diabetes or Flovent, an inhaler, are about 80 percent less expensive through our importation program.”

Importation of certain prescription drugs was made possible through a change in federal policy in November 2020. The federal final rule implements a provision of federal law from 2003 that allows FDA-authorized programs to import certain prescription drugs from Canada to Colorado. Colorado is one of several states seeking to implement state-led importation programs.

As the Department begins this next phase of implementation, it looks forward to engaging stakeholders to ensure Colorado consumers have access to lower-cost, high-quality medications. For more information on the program and on upcoming stakeholder opportunities, visit the Department website.