OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill to help Oklahomans strapped by the ever-increasing costs of prescription drugs has cleared the full Senate. State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, is the principal author of Senate Bill 940, creating the Prescription Drug Safety and Cost Reduction Pilot Program Act. The bill was approved on Thursday.
Standridge said the bill will begin the process for Oklahoma to create a state prescription importation program to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, saving money for consumers and taxpayers. In the last five years, the average cost of prescription drug treatment jumped by 57.8 percent, while Oklahomans’ annual income only rose 2.6 percent. Standridge said the use of Canadian prescription imports to save on drug costs has been championed by President Donald Trump.
“Americans can pay twice as much compared to what people in other countries pay for the same name-brand drugs,” Standridge said. “These drugs are safe but cost much less. With one in four Oklahomans reporting they’d skipped a prescription drug because of the cost, it’s clear this relief is greatly needed.”
If the measure becomes law, SB 940 will direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to apply to the U.S. Sec. of Health and Human Services to create a prescription drug importation pilot program for the state Medicaid program to import pharmaceutical drugs from one or more countries approved by the FDA. The program will import the top 20 prescription drugs in the state that have a large cost difference between those available in the U.S. compared to those in Canada. Six months after the application is submitted, licensed retail pharmacies can begin participating in the program.
“The pharmaceutical market in this country is already global. The U.S. imports more than 40 percent of its finished products and 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in medications, and the FDA imported drugs from other countries in response to U.S. drug shortages,” Standridge said. “This simply gives us the opportunity to take advantage of these less expensive, but equally safe and effective prescription drugs.”
SB 940 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.