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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013

Getting brand name drugs even cheaper

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Residents of Maine will be getting cheap brand name prescription drug imports in a move that has wide implications for other states.

Maine has the first law in the nation that makes imported drugs legal in its borders, according to The Wall Street Journal. That means Mainers will be getting access to scripts from Canadian pharmacies at a 66% discount with the full approval of the state's government.

It's long been common in border states like Minnesota and Wisconsin for people to drive over to Canada and fill scripts at a fraction of the cost they would face in the United States. The pharmaceutical industry has always been opposed to this, citing concerns about drug safety. But no real safety issues have manifested.

Some Mainers are now using an online clearinghouse called CanaRx.com set up by employers as a benefit to employees. Using this site, the city of Portland, Maine, gets 90-day supplies of heartburn med Nexium (40mg) for $200 and gives it free to employees. By comparsion, Aetna would pay $621 and charge city employees $155.

Of course, most of the action in the U.S. pharmacy market is with generics. You wouldn't save anything buying generics as an import. But I'm interested to see if other states follow Maine's lead on this issue. It would be a big savings for their citizens if they did! If you can't use a generic, I love the idea of people getting brand name drugs even cheaper.

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