July 31, 2019
Trump Administration Proposes Plan To Lower Prescription Drug Costs By Importing Cheaper Canadian Medicine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing a plan, promised by the Trump administration, to allow Americans to import Canadian prescriptions medicines, which are generally cheaper, The Associated Press reports.

Back in 2016, one of Donald Trump's campaign promises included lowering prescription drug prices. Since that time, various efforts have been made, both at the state level and at the federal level, to make that happen. For example, according to a companion Associated Press report, both parties in Congress have proposed various forms of legislation aimed at lowering healthcare costs, including taking aim at the sometimes-staggering cost of prescription medications. And in Florida, a bill was introduced to allow Floridians to import Canadian drugs, with FDA approval.

But one thing that would significantly lower the healthcare costs of all Americans would be allowing them to import prescription drugs from Canada. And the FDA is now in the beginning stages of making that possible.

Why Are Prescription Drugs Cheaper Outside Of The United States?

In places such as Mexico and Canada, the government is directly involved in setting the prices of prescription medications. However, in the United States, the law forbids Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers. That, says AP writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, is a testament to the political clout of the drug industry.

What Are Some Examples Of The Difference In Prices?

Here are some of the more striking examples, from PDCI Market Access:

For blood pressure medicine Capoten, the medicine costs 1104 percent more in the U.S. For the asthma medicine Ipratropium, the cost in the U.S. is 318 percent more than what Canadians pay.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders provides a real-life example of the difference.

"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," he said.

What Is The Plan?

One aspect of the administration's plan would allow states, wholesalers, and pharmacists to get FDA approval to import certain medications that are also available in the U.S. Another section allows drug companies to apply for re-approval to import their own drugs from Canada.

When Will Patients Start Seeing Results?

That's hard to say. Congress could, theoretically anyway, derail the effort, although that seems unlikely. Similarly, drug companies could sue to block the plan, possibly tying it up in the courts for months or years.

Even if there are no Congressional or legal hurdles, FDA Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the regulatory process alone could take "weeks or months."