The Trump administration has announced plans to combat high medicine prices by reimporting medicines from Canada, where prices are significantly lower.
This announcement comes as drug prices emerge as a key electoral issue for the November 2020 presidential election.
However the proposal has been critiqued for its limitations, as biologic drugs, intravenous substances, controlled substances and many higher-cost drugs are set to be excluded from the scheme.
Furthermore, it has been pointed out that this approach does not tackle the core issues at hand, and that capacity will in practice be limited as the Canadian authorities will want to prevent supply shortages in Canada, and ensure that any moves do not increase prices in Canada.
Frederick Isasi, representative of the health consumer group Families USA, commented that:
“This is a tactic, not a policy solution. It is a work-around that will not solve the underlying prescription drug cost problem in the United States – massive market failure stemming from unregulated monopolistic pricing by drug companies that incentivises legal tricks instead of innovation to save lives.”
Previous administrations have rejected these proposals due to safety concerns, a concern which is being raised afresh by some in the pharmaceutical industry.
President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Stephen J. Ubl, commented that:
“The administration’s importation scheme is 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.”
Other proposals have included importing versions of FDA-approved drugs, bypassing contracts with pharmacy benefit managers, and introduction of international reference pricing.
However, it remains unclear whether these plans will be taken any further.
More details on the plans are available in the announcement from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) which can be found here. More information on the health system in Canada is available via MAP Online Canada.