On Wednesday, Maine became the first U.S. state to allow purchasing online prescription drugs from foreign pharmacies.
Proponents of the move say that allowing the online sales from other countries — where the prices are cheaper — may force American pharmaceutical companies to cut costs of prescription drugs.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow the importation of foreign drugs. The agency echoes pharmaceutical industry concerns that products procured abroad might be risky. But as the Wall Street Journal points out, that hasn’t stopped U.S. consumers — including the city of Portland, Maine — from importing drugs from Canada anyway, often at heavily discounted prices compared to the U.S.
Officials and foreign companies that ship medication to the U.S. say that such drugs aren’t risky at all, and the U.S. pharmaceutical complaints are rooted more in profit-protection than they are in consumer protection.
“It’s not a safety issue,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “It’s turf.”
Maine pharmacy groups and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America are both challenging the Maine law in federal court.