House committee approves Canadian drugs importation bill

Politics

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A bill that could open the door to cheaper prescription drugs here in Utah takes a step forward at the Capitol.

House Bill 267 would allow the state to seek permission from the federal government to import drugs from Canada.

Prescription drug prices are skyrocketing, leaving many Utah families with some tough choices.

“AARP has 226,000 members in Utah, many of whom are on a fixed income, and are regularly faced with deciding between whether to buy their prescription drugs, or whether to buy groceries, or whether to pay for their utilities,” said Danny Harris with AARP.

Harris says many will choose to pass up the prescriptions or try to make the ones they have last longer than they should because they just can’t afford it.

Representative Norm Thurston says his bill can help. He says importing from Canada could save some upwards of 90 percent depending on the situation.

“The province of Saskatchewan with one million people is getting a better-negotiated price than the state of Utah with three million people,” said Thurston, (R) Orem.

Others argue it could come at a cost.

“Safety and drug integrity are certainly paramount. No savings is worth putting lives at risk,” said Kelvyn Cullimore with BioUtah.

Cullimore is against the bill but says he supports the intent of it and he faced some questions from members of the House Business and Labor Committee.

“What’s your solution then? If not this, then what?” asked Representative Marc Roberts, (R) Payson.

“We think that there are better approaches using rebate systems and having a more direct system to the consumer to achieve that, and we think that needs to be done probably at the federal level,” answered Cullimore.

Representative Thurston disagrees; he’s confident the state can deliver safe drugs at a lower cost.

“If I’m wrong we haven’t lost anything, we haven’t spent any money to find out that we are wrong. If the FDA comes back and says it’s impossible, that’s fine, but I have every confidence the FDA will figure out a way to make this happen,” he said.

The bill passed committee on a 7-3 vote and is now off to the full House.

Another bill sponsored by Representative Paul Ray would require more transparency in regard to who is making what on prescription drug transactions.

It passed the HHS Committee on a unanimous vote and will be considered by the full House.

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 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...