U.S. set to allow Canadian drugs
The U.S. government said Wednesday it will create a way for Americans to legally import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, reversing years of refusals by health authorities amid an outcry over high prices for lifesustaining medications.
The move is a step toward fulfilling a 2016 campaign promise by U.S. President Donald Trump, and it weakens an import ban that has been a symbol of the political clout of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s unclear how soon consumers will see benefits, as the plan has to go through time-consuming regulatory approval and could face court challenges from drugmakers.
It comes as the industry is facing a crescendo of consumer complaints over prices, as well as legislation from both parties in Congress to rein in costs, along with a sheaf of proposals from the Democratic presidential contenders. Ahead of the 2020 election, Trump is feeling pressure to deliver on years of harsh rhetoric about the pharmaceutical industry.
Making the announcement Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the administration’s decision recognizes that prescription drug manufacturing and distribution is now international.
“The landscape and the opportunities for safe linkage between drug supply chains has changed,” Azar said. “That is part of why, for the first time in HHS’s history, we are open to importation. We want to see proposals from states, distributors, and pharmacies that can help accomplish our shared goal of safe prescription drugs at lower prices.”
Stephen Ubl, president of the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America called the plan “far too dangerous” for American patients. “There is no way to guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the country from outside the United States’ gold-standard supply chain,” Ubl said in a statement.