On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torrensen ruled that federal law prohibits Maine residents from buying prescription drugs from other countries.
Her ruling invalidates a 2013 Maine law which had allowed residents to purchase international drugs via the internet, often at a sizable discount.
Under the Maine law, residents were able to buy prescription drugs from pharmacies in four other countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. These countries, which have similar safety protections and regulations as the U.S., often charge less for drugs due to contracts with pharmaceutical companies.
However, Torrenson declared that while U.S. resident are free to purchase drugs across state lines, federal law prohibits them from importing drugs from outside the U.S.
Her decision was applauded by the plaintiffs who had challenged the Maine law – the Maine Pharmacy Association and the Retail Association of Maine.
These groups intensely lobbied against the law before it was passed in 2013, claiming that it would create a serious public health and safety hazard. After it easily made it through the legislature and was signed into law by the governor, the group then filed the federal lawsuit.
Curtis Picard, of the Retail Association of Maine, told the Portland Press Herald that “we believe the court ruled correctly. All along, we warned that the law violated federal laws and this ruling proves that. Maine people can be assured that the prescriptions that are filled by Maine pharmacists are approved medications.”
But former state Senator Troy Jackson, the sponsor of the 2013 bill, pointed out that this ruling only makes it more difficult for struggling and ill Mainers who are unable to afford expensive and often live-saving medication.
Jackson explained to the Portland Press Herald that “there is a lot more at stake for people trying to battle the crushing costs of prescription drugs.”
Although data is not available on the number of Maine residents who took advantage of the Maine law, this ruling nonetheless represents a significant victory for Maine pharmacies and retailers in the battle for prescription drug customers.
“The pharmaceutical industry wins these things 10 out of 10 times, so I’m not surprised,” Jackson said.
There is no word yet on whether or not the state will appeal this decision.