The California State Assembly passed legislation Wednesday, May 26th, that would allow consumers to purchase safe, more affordable prescription drugs from state-certified Canadian pharmacies and allow California state agencies to increase their negotiating power with prescription drug companies.

Assembly Bill 1957 was passed on a 48 to 18 vote. It would require the State Department of Health Services to establish a Web site providing comparisons between U.S. and Canadian pharmaceutical prices and links to Canadian pharmacies certified by the state for safety, access and affordability.

“The Legislature has a chance to provide much-needed relief to Californians who are struggling to obtain the prescription drugs they need because of skyrocketing costs,” said State Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer. “Americans are funding one-third of the research and development of lifesaving drugs that we can’t afford to buy when we’re sick.”

In 2002, U.S. consumers paid $48.6 billion in out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, an increase of 15.3 percent from the previous year.

On average, U.S. residents spend $654 on drugs annually, while a resident in Britain pays $197, according to Time magazine.

It is estimated that more than one million Americans spent a total of $800 million last year on prescription drugs from Canada, where drugs are, on average, 40 percent cheaper, according to news reports.

The bill is expected to be before the State Senate prior to Tuesday, August 31st.