Judge overturns Maine’s drug importation law

February 25, 2015

A federal judge this week overturned a law allowing Maine residents to buy prescription drugs from Internet pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

A federal judge this week overturned a law allowing Maine residents to buy prescription drugs from Internet pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Back in 2013, a coalition that included the Maine Pharmacy Association (MPA) and the Maine Society of Health-System Pharmacists (MSHSP) sued the state to stop the new law, arguing it would open the door for counterfeit and expired medications. The Maine law was the first of its kind in the nation.

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U.S. Chief District Judge Nancy Torresen ruled that Maine’s law infringed on the federal government’s regulatory authority by allowing drug importation at the state level. Federal law limits the importation of drugs for personal use.

“Singling out of certain countries from which pharmaceuticals may be imported compromises the tightly regulated [federal] structure,” Torresen wrote. “[It] compromises [the] federal government’s ability to speak with one voice when it regulates foreign commerce.”

Because those aforementioned countries cap prices and negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, they can sell drugs for considerably less. However, MPA, MSHSP, the Retail Association of Maine, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America all fought to block the importation.

 

“Maine pharmacists are relieved that Judge Torresen’s ruling ensures the safety of prescription drugs for Mainers by upholding federal laws that are designed to prevent unapproved and substandard drugs from coming into the United States,” Kenneth McCall, immediate past president of MPA, said in a statement.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has not announced if the state plans on appealing the decision. “Congress and the FDA should re-examine their policy towards importation of prescription drugs,” Mills said. “Meanwhile, we will review the decision and decide on next steps.”

Former Maine Sen. Troy Jackson, said he hopes that state appeals. “Some of these drugs are being made in Ireland,” Jackson told the Bangor Daily News. “One day they’re going to Canada, the next day they’re going to the United States. It’s the same manufacturing facility.… The only thing that’s different is the price that they’re able to squeeze out of people in the United States.”

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