Trump Has Blessed States’ Exploration Of Importing Drugs. Will It Catch On?


By Phil Galewitz

Seeking a solution to the soaring costs of drugs, Colorado, Florida and Vermont are making plans to import medications from Canada, where prescriptions are cheaper.

President Donald Trump has offered his support, marking the first time drug importation has won a presidential endorsement.

The states’ plans are in their infancy. But they signal how frustration among consumers — especially those shouldering greater portions of their health bills through high-deductible health plans — is putting pressure on federal and state officials.

Because so many details are still being hashed out, it’s not yet clear who would be helped by the states’ efforts or if the plans can ultimately gain federal approval and withstand likely court challenges.

In the early 2000s, attempts by a few states, led by Illinois, to allow drug importation fizzled, and any new plan faces stiff regulatory and legal hurdles. But drug prices are at an all-time high. The increasing popularity of high-deductible plans means a growing number of patients are spending more money on health care. And Trump’s endorsement and current consumer demand for lowering drug prices could yield a different result this time around.

“Everyone is eager to get going into uncharted territory,” said Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan group of state health officials, which has been working with Vermont on its importation plan.

Gabriel Levitt, president of, which verifies online foreign pharmacies for customers, said the high prices for drugs make the efforts worth pursuing.

“It certainly will be helpful to reduce costs for some in the states that go ahead, and that’s a great start,” he said. Plus, he added, Trump’s support “puts the wind at the sails of importation.”