ST. CLOUD -- Could importing prescription drugs from Canada and abroad help ease rising health care costs? Republican senators Jerry Relph of St. Cloud and Michelle Benson of Ham Lake presented the idea during a public, prescription drug-focused listening session in St. Cloud Monday evening.

During the session, held at the Lake George Municipal Complex, the senators shared information about two prescription drug reimportation pathways, introduced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The first path offers imported prescriptions from Canada. The second would import FDA-approved drugs from other countries directly to pharmacies and would not involve health insurance companies.

Relph says he thinks both plans would connect patients with cheaper prescriptions efficiently.

“Let’s say you have a drug that, even after insurance and copays, you pay $300 for, every month,” Relph explains. “And, you can go to Canada and get it for $150 in cash. This plan provides a route to that.”

Florida, Vermont, Colorado and Maine have already passed drug importation laws, and numerous other states are looking at proposals or introducing legislation.

“We’re coming at it from every direction we can think of,” Relph says. “We’re trying to think outside the box. The major thing we don’t want to do is create another government bureaucracy. I want to see us work within the framework that we have now.”


Relph says the feedback gathered at the listening session will be taken back to St. Paul as lawmakers continue working on the issue. More sessions are being planned around the state.

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