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State releases next step in plan to import prescription drugs from Canada

The initiative aims to help save Coloradans money on healthcare by allowing for the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
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DENVER — The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing has released the next step in a state plan aimed at lowering prescription drug costs in Colorado by importing drugs from Canada.

The Colorado General Assembly passed SB19-005 in 2019, authorizing the department to seek approval from the federal government to establish a "Canadian Prescription Drug Importation'" program to allow Coloradans access to Canada's lower-priced drugs. 

On Monday, the department released an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) bidding process in an effort to find vendors to help operationalize the program, including aspects of compliance, safety and prescription drug distribution. 

The state said while the average savings on importable drugs from Canada is more than 60%, savings for some drugs are greater than 90%.

“The U.S. pays the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and we are sick and tired of being ripped off," said Governor Jared Polis (D-Colorado). "Almost one in three Coloradans do not take their prescription drugs as directed because they can’t afford to. My administration will lead the way in changing that. Safely importing prescription drugs from Canada is one of the ways we can help Coloradans save money on health care.” 

According to the ITN, one vendor will be responsible for administrative and programmatic functions, including compliance monitoring, communications, and data collection. A second vendor, a Canadian wholesaler, will purchase prescription drugs for the Colorado market. 

A third vendor, a pharmacist or U.S. wholesaler, will contract with the foreign seller to facilitate the importation of the prescription drugs into Colorado, the ITN says. That vendor will also manage the drug distribution system and ensure all imported products are appropriately labeled and packaged for the Colorado market.  

“One in 4 Coloradans get their prescription drug and health care coverage through programs administered by our Department. We are proud to provide the prescription drug expertise, federal compliance knowledge, customer-centric values and overall leadership to operationalize this important initiative,” said Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director for the Department of Health Care Policy & Financing. “We look forward to working with domestic and foreign partners to help us save Colorado families and our employers money on prescription drugs.”

Bids are due by April 26, with vendor contracts expected to be awarded later this year.

Colorado is one of several states implementing state-led prescription drug importation programs.

> Read Colorado's Drug Importation Program ITN here.

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