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Colorado takes a step toward importing drugs from Canada; start date is still 2 years away

John Ingold
The Colorado Sun

If you develop osteoporosis, your doctor might prescribe for you a drug called teriparatide, which is sold by the drugmaker Eli Lilly under the brand name Forteo.

In the pharmaceutical industry, Forteo, which helps rebuild bone, is what is known as a blockbuster — a massive, reliable seller that brings in billions of dollars for its maker. But when you walk into the pharmacy to pick up your prescription, you might be in for a shock. After seeing its prices rise the third-most among top-selling brand name drugs between 2012 and 2017, Forteo now costs an average of $3,906.62 in Colorado for a one-month supply, according to a report released this month by the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

Cross the border into Canada, however, and Forteo is a relative bargain — $880.58, according to the same report.

That $3,026.04 difference explains why Colorado health officials, after two years of ups and downs, continue charging forward with a plan to import prescription drugs from Canada, even as they have begun to realize that the savings might not actually impact state Medicaid spending all that much. Instead, the state believes the importation program will mainly benefit the commercial sector — the private insurance companies and self-funded employers that provide health coverage for roughly half of all Coloradans.

This story is being published partially online and in full in select print editions through an agreement with the Colorado Sun. Read the full story online at coloradosun.com.