PORTLAND, Maine (CBS Connecticut) – Maine is now the first state to legalize buying prescription drugs from abroad.

Americans often cross the border into Canada for cheaper medicine, breaking the law and going against rules set in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  But Portland Mayor Michael Brennan signed a law that creates an official partnership between the City of Portland and CanaRx, a Canadian prescription provider, for people to purchase prescription drugs at a lower cost through the Canadian company.

“…Cities across the country are looking at ways to reduce health care costs,” Brennan told CBS News. “One of the most significant cost drivers within health care is the cost of pharmaceutical or prescription drugs.

Prior to September 2012, the partnership between the City of Portland and CanaRx existed, just not legally.  The attorney general for the state at that time intervened and stopped the program from continuing, because of pressure received from pharmaceutical companies.

However, local lawmakers in Portland feared the rising cost of health care and decided to reinstate the practice and make it legal to get prescription drugs from Canada because of the programs wide success in the city.

Brennan explained to CBS News that Portland employees saved more than $3 million from ordering drugs abroad from 2004 to 2012.

Safety has become a concern with the practice of importing drugs from abroad because foreign drug companies are not monitored by the FDA.  Buyers of foreign drugs may end up with counterfeit or dangerous medications if a drug company outsources the production of medication to another country with few safety regulations.

The FDA warned CanaRx twice in 2003 because shipments of insulin were not kept at proper temperature.  Medications that need refrigeration have stopped being distributed by the company.

CanaRx said in a statement to CBS News that “they have not heard from the FDA since, and they have never had a negative incident.”

Kenneth McCall is a Maine pharmacist who opposes the new law.  He told CBS News that it’s too dangerous of a practice.

“There hasn’t been any oversight, and certainly, it’s easy to claim that you’re perfect when no one is watching,” McCall told CBS News. “But that’s what we think is a significant public safety concern is that there’s absolutely no accountability in this bill. No protection for people in Maine.”


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