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Trump administration advances drug importation plan

Proposal would allow states to import drugs from Canada

Drug pricing

The Trump administration has advanced draft guidance which would allow states in the US to import prescription drugs from Canada, as part of cost-saving efforts to combat the skyrocketing price of medicines in the country. 

The plan was initially announced back in July, and would allow the import of certain categories of lower cost drugs from Canada – but would exclude all biologic drugs (including insulin), intravenous drugs and controlled substances.

The drug prices in Canada and its provinces are much lower than those in the US, due to tighter price regulations and governmental negotiations with drug companies.

However, importers would require the cooperation of both the Canadian government and the pharmaceutical industry, and both oppose the plans.

Alex Azar

The proposal could prove difficult for other reasons, as it also requires importers to have knowledge of regulatory processes – including safety tests and being able to manage product recalls. The safety tests would need to be able to demonstrate that the imported product is the same as what’s available in the US.

The only way to do this is by getting drug manufacturers to carry out the testing or provide materials for the tests – but this seems highly unlikely given that the drug industry is against the proposal.

“There is no way that pharma sells more drug to Canada so that the US can import at cheaper prices,” said Erin Fox, a drug supply expert at the University of Utah, according to Politico.

The Canadian government has taken issue with the proposal, in large part due to concerns that it could cause a shortage of medicines available to its own citizens.

Canada carries about one-tenth of the stock available in pharmacies in the US, and so would be reluctant to provide massive quantities for importation.

“We share the goal of ensuring people can get and afford the medication they need,” said Canadian health ministry spokesman Thierry Belair.

“But these [Trump administration] measures will not have any significant impact on prices or access for Americans. We remain firmly focused on ensuring Canadians can access the medication they need,” he added.

The announcement came shortly before news broke that President Trump had been impeached. The House voted on two articles of impeachment – the first being abuse of power, and the second obstruction of congress.

Trump will now face a trial in the Senate, where there is a Republican Party majority. Every Republican voted against the charges, so it is highly unlikely that Trump will be removed from office.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

19th December 2019

From: Healthcare

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