AARP Nebraska is backing a measure that would pave the way for Nebraska to safely import lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada.
LB 200, introduced by Sen. Tom Briese, would create the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program and require the state to apply for federal approval to administer the program.
Jina Ragland, advocacy director for AARP Nebraska, endorsed the concept in testimony Jan. 25 before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
“It is no secret that the U.S. pays the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world,” Ragland said. “By importing equally safe, less expensive drugs, Nebraska can anticipate reducing our overall expenditures on drugs and, depending on how the state program is structured, can pass those savings on to Nebraskans who are impacted by the program.”
Policymakers have long looked to Canada as a potential source of savings, where prescription drugs cost, on average, 30% less than in the U.S. Safety, development and approval standards for prescription drugs in Canada are similar to those in the U.S.
In recent years, a half dozen states have passed bills seeking federal approval for state-run drug importation programs.
According to an AARP 2022 Vital Voices survey, 84% of Nebraska residents age 45 plus think being able to pay for prescriptions is either extremely or very important. In Nebraska, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased 26.3% between 2015 and 2019, while the annual income for Nebraska residents only increased 10.4%.
“Though not a complete solution to the problem of high drug prices, safe and legal importation will help put downward pressure on prices,” Ragland said. “No one should have to choose between buying medications or buying food for themselves or their families.”