Here's How Vermont's Plan To Import Prescription Drugs Will Work

May 25, 2018

Vermont is embarking on an ambitious experiment to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs by importing cheaper medications from Canada. State lawmakers and the governor passed the proposal into law in mid-May, but the details - and federal approval - still need to be worked out. How will the plan actually work?

S.175 lays out the plan's basic components, tasking the Agency of Human Services with drafting a system for wholesale importation of prescription drugs, a mechanism to ensure their safety for patients and a method to get the drugs to existing pharmacies and retail customers.

Any plan AHS creates would also need certification from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has called such import schemes a “gimmick.” 

Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), a co-sponsor of S.175, joins Vermont Edition to outline the new law, what kind of savings Vermont could realize from the plan and what needs to happen for it to proceed.

We'll also hear from Jeff Hochberg, president of the Vermont Retail Druggists Association, and Jim Hopsicker, vice president of pharmacy at MVP Health Care.

Also joining the conversation is Erik Neumann, health reporter for KUER Public Radio in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he's covered that state legislature's efforts to institute a similar prescription importation program.

Broadcast live on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.