Maine pharmacists sue to block importation of foreign drugs

September 17, 2013

A coalition that includes the Maine Pharmacy Association has sued that state to stop a new law that allows consumers to buy mail-order prescription drugs from unlicensed international firms.

A coalition that includes the Maine Pharmacy Association has sued that state to stop a new law that allows consumers to buy mail-order prescription drugs from unlicensed international firms.

The coalition, which also includes the Retail Association of Maine, the Maine Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, filed the lawsuit in federal court last week seeking a preliminary injunction preventing the law from taking effect on Oct. 9.

The coalition’s lawsuit claims that the new law is an attempt to circumvent federal law and would threaten patient safety. It names Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and state Finance Commissioner H. Sawin Millett, Jr., as defendants.

Kenneth McCall, president of the Maine Pharmacy Association, said the law would open the door for counterfeit or expired medications.  "In addition to identifying potential drug interactions for patients who may receive multiple prescriptions, Maine pharmacists regularly consult directly with prescribing physicians when questions arise," McCall said. "Maine pharmacists also help inform patients about the medications that have been prescribed and are available to consult with patients in the event that the patient has an adverse reaction. This new law deprives Maine residents and Maine physicians of these critically important functions that Maine pharmacists provide."

Maine Senate Assistant Majority Leader Troy D. Jackson, D-Allagash, who sponsored the bill, called the lawsuit baseless. "I sponsored legislation to restore access to safe, affordable, life-saving prescription drugs. My bill passed earlier this year and became Maine law with the support of a majority of Maine legislators," Jackson said. “We had a successful, tested, open lifeline to CanaRx that was cut off by drug companies looking to charge higher and higher prices for drugs that Maine people could buy for a lot less. My bill reopened access to CanaRx and affirmed that individuals in Maine can obtain prescription drugs from the countries where CanaRx fills prescriptions."

Last year, former Maine Attorney General William Schneider ruled that CanaRx could not be licensed as a pharmacy in Maine. It had been providing low-cost medication to state government employees since 2003. Schneider’s decision forced CanaRx to end it MaineMeds program.

In response, lawmakers passed legislation designed to allow CanaRx to continue doing business in Maine. "The new law simply removes the state licensing requirement. The law is permissive, not restrictive," said Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. "There is nothing in this act which violates any other laws, and we believe that there are no grounds for the court to enjoin the law."