Colorado Releases Solicitation to Import Prescription Drugs from Canada

Monday, January 25, 2021

State estimates savings of more than 60% off the prices of importable prescription drugs 

DENVER - Today, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (the Department) released an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN), soliciting multiple vendors to help operationalize Colorado’s Canadian Drug Importation Program including aspects such as compliance, safety and prescription drug distribution. In 2019, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB19-005, which authorized the Department to seek approval from the federal government to establish an importation program that will provide access to Canada’s lower priced drugs to Colorado employers and consumers. Since then, the Department has been working diligently on this initiative to help save Coloradans money on health care. 

“The U.S. pays the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and we are sick and tired of being ripped off. Almost one in three Coloradans do not take their prescription drugs as directed because they can’t afford to,” said Governor Jared Polis. “My administration will lead the way in changing that. Safely importing prescription drugs from Canada is one of the ways we can help Coloradans save money on health care.” 

Importation of certain prescription drugs was made possible through a change in federal policy in November 2020. The federal final rule implements a provision of federal law from 2003 that allows FDA-authorized programs to import certain prescription drugs from Canada to Colorado. Colorado is one of several states implementing state-led importation programs. 

The state’s ITN includes several options for the industry to partner with the state on this impactful program. One vendor will be responsible for administrative and programmatic functions including compliance monitoring, communications, and data collection. A second vendor - a foreign seller, which is a Canadian wholesaler - will purchase prescription drugs for the Colorado market. A third vendor - referred to as an importer, a pharmacist or U.S. wholesaler - will contract with the foreign seller to facilitate the importation of the prescription drugs into Colorado. The importer will also manage the drug distribution system, which includes ensuring imported products are tested to meet safety standards through the use of a qualified laboratory. This vendor will also ensure all imported products are appropriately labeled and packaged for the Colorado market. The importer will also contract with Colorado pharmacies to ensure Colorado consumers have access to imported products. All vendors must meet the standards required in state and federal law. 

The 2nd edition of Reducing Prescription Drug Costs in Colorado - Cost Drivers and Solutions to Address Them was released earlier this month by the Department. In it, the Department published its findings on the savings associated with Canadian drug importation. While the average savings on importable drugs was more than 60%, savings for some drugs was greater than 90%.

“One in 4 Coloradans get their prescription drug and health care coverage through programs administered by our Department. We are proud to provide the prescription drug expertise, federal compliance knowledge, customer-centric values and overall leadership to operationalize this important initiative,” said Kim Bimestefer, executive director for the Department of Health Care Policy & Financing. “We look forward to working with domestic and foreign partners to help us save Colorado families and our employers money on prescription drugs.”  

Bids are due by Monday, April 26. The Department anticipates awarding vendor contracts later this year.