Saturday, 21 September, 2019

Trump administration opens door to importing medicine from Canada

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar pauses while speaking during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington. Azar says he and President Donald Trump are working on a plan to allow Ameri Trump administration unveils plan to allow drug importation from Canada
Gustavo Carr | 01 August, 2019, 15:59

During an interview with CNBC, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that President Trump is now drafting a proposal that would allow the U.S.to import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada.

The administration of President Donald Trump revealed a plan on July 31 that would let Americans buy lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it and the Food and Drug Administration will propose a rule that will allow it to authorize states and other groups to pursue pilot projects related to importing drugs from Canada. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made the announcement Wednesday morning.

Under one scenario, states, pharmacists or drug wholesalers could submit plans to the agency for test projects on how they would import drugs approved by Health Canada.

"To use this pathway, the manufacturer or entity authorized by the manufacturer would establish with the FDA that the foreign version is the same as the U.S. version and appropriately label the drug for sale in the U.S.", HHS said.

Trump has appeared eager to tout a legislative victory in the lead up to the 2020 election, and polls have indicated a majority of voters across the political spectrum support a range of federal policies aimed at curbing prescription drug costs.

"Today we are saying we are open and there is a pathway and we are laying out criteria for states, wholesale drug distributors and pharmacies to convince us they have a plan that protects the integrity of the drug supply chain".

"The Administration has reason to believe that manufacturers might use this pathway as an opportunity to offer Americans lower-cost versions of their own drugs".

HHS noted in its announcement that this part of the proposal could also potentially lower the price of medications for insulin and cancer, among others.

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It comes as the industry is facing a crescendo of consumer complaints over costs, as well as legislation from both parties in Congress to rein in costs, along with a sheaf of proposals from the Democratic presidential contenders. "This is the next important step in the Administration's work to end foreign freeloading and put American patients first". Under the plan, oversight from the Food and Drug Administration would help ensure the safety of the imported drugs.

Meanwhile, several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have a bill to facilitate importation.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says there's "no way to guarantee the safety of drugs" coming from outside the United States. Previous attempts by states to allow importation failed because the secretary opposed them.

During Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, Sen.

In the Senate, Trump is supporting Grassley's bipartisan bill to cap medication costs for Medicare recipients and require drugmakers to pay rebates to the program if price hikes exceed inflation.

But consumer groups have strongly backed the idea, arguing that it will pressure United States drugmakers to reduce their prices.

The proposal is being designed with the aim of lowering the prices of drugs in the U.S.by bringing in drugs from Canada, which are cheaper. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., noted the disparity in USA and Canadian prices, stating: "I took 15 people with diabetes from Detroit a few miles into Canada, and we bought insulin for one-tenth the price being charged by the crooks who run the pharmaceutical industry in America today".

Canadian health officials have expressed concerns about USA importation, Azar said, but he added that it is up to states that want to start a program to work to overcome the obstacles, such as a lack of supply, Canadians foresee.

The push for drug importation has come amid mounting scrutiny by pharmacists and drug manufacturers, who have warned that the practice could increase the chances Americans get their hands on counterfeit or adulterated medications with life-threatening consequences.