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Canadian Drug Imports Could Help Reduce Costs to Consumers

Consumer advocates want U.S. lawmakers to address patent loopholes that allow drug companies to keep cheaper generics from reaching the marketplace. (Pixabay)
Consumer advocates want U.S. lawmakers to address patent loopholes that allow drug companies to keep cheaper generics from reaching the marketplace. (Pixabay)
August 2, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – This week the Trump administration opened the door for prescription drug imports from Canada, in a move to address concerns about high costs.

The Department of Health and Human Services outlined steps that would allow for cheaper generic drugs to be imported, and asked states interested in developing their own, pilot import projects to submit proposals.

Frederick Isasi, executive director of the health-care advocacy group Families USA says if the administration follows through, U.S. consumers would be getting a better deal.

"We know that drugs in Canada are less expensive than in the United States – they are in some cases maybe five times less expensive,” says Isasi. “But it's important to mention that Canada has the second-highest prices in the world."

Isasi notes allowing imports from Canada is a good short-term tactic, but says relying on foreign governments to negotiate lower drug prices for Americans isn't a great long-term policy solution.

The pharmaceutical industry is opposed to the idea, and has blamed rising costs on middlemen in the supply chain, including pharmacy benefit managers. Other critics worry that relying on foreign regulators to approve drugs used by Americans could put public health and safety at risk.

Isasi thinks the move would give many Americans access to the same safe, lower-cost medicines that Canadian families use every day. But he believes a more significant move would be to strike down laws that prohibit U.S. lawmakers from negotiating directly with industry for better prices.

"We as taxpayers across this country are funding billions and billions of dollars in pharmaceutical drug purchases,” says Isasi. “And the government should be able to go in there and negotiate directly with drug manufacturers to get a reasonable and fair price."

Isasi says drug imports also would expand Canada's negotiating leverage by adding potentially millions of new U.S. customers. He believes the U.S. also needs to address loopholes in patent laws, which prevent cheaper generics from reaching consumers.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE