Federal judge strikes down Maine's controversial prescription drug import law
- U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torenson has struck down the Maine Pharmacy Act, which enabled Maine residents to buy lower-cost prescription drugs, through a broker, in Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.
- The Maine Pharmacy Act was passed two years ago; however, the pharmaceutical industry (through PhRMA) and pharmacists filed a series of lawsuits contesting the legality of the law—and for now, they've won.
- The law was invalidated because, according to the judge's 19-page ruling, the FDA has jurisdiction over the importation of drugs.
The driving force for the passage of the Maine Pharmacy Law, the first of its kind in the U.S., was not just to get lower prices for pharmaceuticals, but to deal with the fact that last year, generic drug costs—which were supposed to be much lower—increased astronomically. Last December, BioPharma Dive spoke to experts from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and AARP about why 50% of generic drugs had increased in price and 10% had doubled, while some had increased as much as 10,000% in price—and what we can do about it.
One of the proposed solutions was the idea of being able to procure cheaper drugs abroad. For the residents of Maine, it was good while it lasted, but the pharmaceutical industry cited not only applicable federal laws, but also concerns about the safety and quality of drugs coming in from outside of the U.S.
In the final analysis, it comes down to federal versus state laws. It should be noted, however, that federal law does allow individuals to import drugs in for individual use—and that law still stands. It is unclear at this time if Maine plans to appeal the judge's ruling.