KUALA LUMPUR, August 1 — The Trump administration announced yesterday that it was open to permitting Americans to import certain cheaper drugs from Canada.
Stat reported that the official but preliminary plan required state governments in the United States to come up with a proposal for safe importation for federal approval. Wholesalers and pharmacies are also allowed to submit plans.
“For the first time in HHS’ (Health and Human Services) history, we are open to importation,” health secretary Alex Azar was quoted saying to the press.
According to Stat, such populist ideas by the Trump administration to reduce the price of prescription drugs are traditionally unpopular with pharmaceutical companies and a large part of the Republican Party.
Florida, Colorado and Vermont are reportedly planning to import prescription drugs from Canada, with the latter two having already passed legislation on it. US president Donald Trump has also verbally supported Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan.
But actual importation of drugs, according to Stat, would likely take some time as a regulatory review itself could take months, if not years. The Trump administration’s plan also will only be a pilot, amid uncertainty on whether it would be expanded on a national basis.
Only specific drugs could be imported under state-based plans.
Azar reportedly said insulin — a biologic which has emerged as a symbol of the huge drug price differences between the US and Canada, with desperate diabetic Americans crossing the border to buy it — could not be imported under existing law.
Kaiser Health News noted that some medicines were often cheaper in other countries than in the US because most developed nations negotiated prices with drug makers. But those who impose drug importation claim that bringing medicines over the border could lead to counterfeit drugs entering the US.
“There is no way to guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the country from outside the United States’ gold-standard supply chain,” Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a brand-name drug trade group, was quoted saying in a statement.
“Drugs coming through Canada could have originated from anywhere in the world and may not have undergone stringent review by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).”