The Trump administration wants to allow Americans to import drugs from Canada as part of the President’s larger goal to lower prescription drug prices.
Robyn Boerstling, Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources at the National Association of Manufacturers, explains the proposal and how drug importation affects manufacturers.
Why is drug importation coming up now?
This has been one of President Trump’s priorities since the 2016 campaign. More broadly, lowering prescription drug prices has been a top priority for manufacturers and policymakers for some time now, as health care costs continue to rise.
However, manufacturers in the U.S. think importing drugs from Canada poses a serious health risk, especially considering the counterfeit challenges we already face.
How does drug importation fit into the larger conversation on health care?
The NAM insists something must be done to address high health care costs. But it shouldn’t just be about the transaction at pharmacy counter. Any solution has to be holistic, addressing the systematic challenges without sacrificing competitiveness and free enterprise in the process.
How does drug importation affect manufacturers?
The biopharmaceutical industry has experienced tremendous growth recently, supporting 1,100 manufacturing plants across the U.S. and Puerto Rico and employing thousands of high-skilled employees. In fact, the biopharmaceutical industry was the top manufacturing sector for job postings in 2018, according to Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insights.
These companies are at the cutting edge of creating the cures of tomorrow, and America’s policies on drug prices should take into consideration both the desire to lower prescription drug prices and the opportunities and benefits provided by this sector. Moreover, other countries don’t guarantee the same standards as drugs made in the U.S—and we should not be looking outside our carefully managed supply chain as a source of our medicines.
Why is drug importation a threat for consumers?
Counterfeit and substandard drugs are a growing problem worldwide. The challenge is most acute in the developing world, impacting about 10 percent of the drug supply according to the World Health Organization. Fortunately, the U.S. has the safest drug distribution system in the world, but importing drugs from Canadian pharmacies would be a direct challenge to that proven model.
Would drug importation work in the United States?
If this plan led by the Trump administration is truly a way to lower costs, we have to ask: Are the savings guaranteed for the patient? The infrastructure that will be necessary to assure safety will be costly. It’s difficult to ignore the question, “Will importation actually reduce prescription drug expenditures?”
It’s worth noting, in 2004 when the Congressional Budget Office looked at this issue, significant long-term savings on prescription drug spending did not materialize, especially in a Canada-only importation scenario.
There is something broken when people have access to but cannot afford the drugs they need. If the United States can build the safest medical supply in the world, we can find ways to be more affordable to the people who need relief the most.