In this March 25, 2015 file photo, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, both Democrats, joined Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and 30 other members of Congress to introduce legislation in both houses of Congress to lower costs of prescription drugs by allowing greater access to imported medicine from Canada. 

The legislation, known as the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services within two years to import medicine from other advanced countries while ensuring consumer protection, a press release from Cantwell’s office said. 

Prices for medication in Canada and other countries manufactured by the same companies as in the U.S. are available abroad for much cheaper. 

The press release said that in 2014 Americans on average spent $1,112 per person on prescription drugs while Canadians spent only $772. 

“Under this legislation’s new and stringent drug safety requirements, Americans will have more choice and affordability. This legislation also includes important new penalties to crack down on the illegal importation of opioids and other illicit drugs,” Cantwell said in the release. 

Under the act, wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals could import qualifying prescription drugs from licensed Canadian sellers. Foreign sellers would have to become certified by the Food and Drug Administration. It also cracks down on unauthorized online pharmacies.

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