Democrat Cooney rolls out proposal to import lower-priced drugs

Posted at 10:26 AM, Aug 01, 2019

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who’s running for governor in 2020, said Wednesday the first bill he’ll offer as governor would set up a state program allowing importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

Cooney made the announcement on the same day the Trump administration said it will help pave the way for states to offer pilot programs to import less-expensive drugs, from Canada or other countries.

“I think that makes a big difference, because it also says the federal government recognizes the importance of trying to drive the cost of drugs down,” Cooney told MTN News. “We know that the cost of drugs in Canada is substantially less than what the cost of drugs in the United States are.”

Cooney said he’d already been working on plans to lower prescription drugs, which he considers a top issue -- and that the Trump announcement prompted him to roll out his proposal, the first of his campaign.

“Six other states have done quite a bit of work, and they’ve passed legislation along these same lines,” he said. “We need to be prepared, and as soon as the next Legislature comes in, this will be a priority for me.”

Cooney is one of three Democrats running for governor in 2020, to succeed Gov. Steve Bullock, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

One of those Democrats, state Rep. Casey Schreiner of Great Falls, said Wednesday he supported bills during the 2019 Legislature to lower drug costs, and would continue that work as governor.

At least three Republicans also are running for governor next year.

Cooney said a bill is needed to set up a program to import wholesale drugs from Canada, and that it likely would be a certain types of drugs, rather than all drugs: “Perhaps insulin, those kinds of drugs, that are very pricey and causing real problems for people.”

“Montanans have been getting ripped off for too long,” he added. “Folks shouldn’t be forced to choose between paying for medicine and putting food on the table.”

The Trump administration said Wednesday it will pursue two pathways to import less-expensive drugs from abroad.

One is state-developed pilot programs, as proposed by Cooney, and the other is making it easier for drug manufacturers to import their own drugs being sold in foreign countries at lower prices.