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Cuomo: NY should explore importing cheaper medications from Canada

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Credit: Howard Schnapp

 ALBANY — New York would consider importing lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada as part of a proposal to reduce the cost of medications, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo’s proposal to the State Legislature also would cap the rising cost of copays for insulin at $100 per month, or a third of what some drug companies are now charging. The proposal also would direct the state to investigate the rising prices set by drug companies.

But the most dramatic, potential change may be Cuomo’s proposal to import medications from Canada, which Republican President Donald Trump has also proposed. The price difference can be dramatic. For example, a vial of insulin in Canada can cost as little as $32, or a tenth of some U.S. prices, according to media reports.

"The exorbitant cost of prescription drugs is a massive burden on families across the country, and we're determined to use every tool in the tool box and pursue every available avenue to bring real relief to New Yorkers," Cuomo said. He proposed an expert panel be appointed to explore the option.

Canada keeps its prices lower than in the U.S. by using government price controls, a step that is more politically sensitive in the U.S. The Canadian government won’t pay for any medications it finds excessively priced. That has drawn some Americans to visit Canada to purchase their medications.

Cuomo’s proposed commission would include insurance companies, consumers and health care providers to identify savings from importing medication from Canada.

There was no immediate comment from the Legislature. The proposal is part of Cuomo’s State of the State address to the Legislature scheduled for Jan. 8.