Colorado submitted its formal application to the federal government on Monday for a new program that would import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada into the state.
“Colorado’s Drug Importation Program is a major piece in our work to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and this final step gets us even closer to making lower health costs a reality for Coloradans,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.
The application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists 112 drugs Colorado hopes to import, resulting in an average cost savings of 65% over the current U.S price. An analysis estimates an annual savings of $53 million to $88 million.
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“The state’s proposed drug list targets commonly prescribed drugs, such as blood thinners and drugs used for women’s health, and a variety of drugs that treat conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma, cancer and HIV,” the application reads.
There are many well-known drugs on the proposed list. A 0.3 mg EpiPen, used to treat anaphylaxis, would cost $91.13 under the importation plan compared to $264.89, according to the state’s analysis. The contraceptive Nuvaring would be $14.11, compared to $142.71. The costliest drug on the list, 3 mL of the HIV treatment medication Cabenuva, would be over 50% cheaper, at $3,074 under the scheme compared to $6,240.71.
The state wrote in its application that it compiled the list by examining drugs that are “high cost or high volume” and difficult for Coloradans to afford, using claims data submitted by payers in the state. The list is just a starting point, however, and in some ways “aspirational.”
“We anticipate our initial list for the early years of the program to be significantly more narrow than the list presented. In large part, this is due to likely modest participation from manufacturers in the short term, with a focus on small innovator companies and generic manufacturers. We believe, however, that with proof of the importation concept, more manufacturers will agree to participate due to market incentives that importation can offer,” the application reads.
The importation plan will rely on a foreign fulfiller, AdiraMedica in Canada, and a domestic distributor, Premier Pharmaceuticals in Idaho. AdiraMedica will ship medications across the Canadian border into Buffalo, New York. The drugs will be quarantined and authenticated before entering the Colorado market.
The plan, mandated under 2019 state legislation, is an effort to lower costs for Coloradans with Medicare or private health insurance.
Florida was the first state to submit a drug importation plan application in 2020, which is still pending. Colorado is the second state to submit a plan.
State officials expect the FDA review to take six months and have said the drug importation program will be operational by mid-2023 at the earliest.
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