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Understand Executive Authority on Allowing Safe Personal Drug Importation

Originally Published as A Blueprint to Understand Executive Authority on Allowing Safe Personal Drug Importation on PrescriptionJustice.org.

Yesterday, President Trump announced four executive orders with the stated intent of substantially lowering drug prices. Briefly, the administration’s bluster on drug prices over the past three years has been far louder than any actions taken to actually do something about it. Better late than never.

The orders call for and include: 1) Lower prices on EpiPens and insulin, 2) Allowing personal drug importation, 3) Ending profit-taking by pharmacy benefit manager middlemen, and 4) “most favored nation” drug price negotiation in Medicare, meaning Medicare would get the lowest price on drugs of any country.

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Transatlantic Drug Regulatory Cooperation: Moving Beyond Canada

Canada is a good option for Americans seeking to access their medications at a lower cost through personal drug importation, but even I agree with the pharmaceutical industry when they say that wholesale drug importation on a large scale is not workable with Canada. Why?  Simply because Canada is too small a nation to supply the U.S. market. I have written that there is much more promise if importation is expanded to the European Union. We already rely on the EU to assess U.S. drug safety, and current events have only brought that into greater focus.

Due to the world’s efforts to quell Covid-19, Regulatory Focus reported on increased cooperation between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). These drug regulators have engaged in regular consultations since 2003 in order to share insights and best practices. In 2014, that same cooperation led to the creation of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA). Due to an MRA between the FDA and EMA, the U.S. can rely on EU inspections of drug manufacturing establishments in any EU country. That means we have a lot of faith in EU pharmaceutical safety standards.

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Investing In The U.S. Health System By Lowering Drug Prices, Reducing, Out-of-Pocket Costs and Improving the Medicare Benefit

The following statement, recently published in the Congressional Record, was submitted by Gabriel Levitt on October 30, 2019, on behalf of PharmacyChecker and Prescription Justice, to the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives 116th Congress pertaining to a hearing entitled: “Investing In The U.S. Health System By Lowering Drug Prices, Reducing, Out-of-Pocket Costs and Improving the Medicare Benefit”.

“Investing In The U.S. Health System By Lowering Drug Prices, Reducing, Out-of-Pocket Costs and Improving the Medicare Benefit”

October 29, 2019

Gabriel Levitt

Co-founder and President, PharmacyChecker.com, 333 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605, 718-554-3067, gabriel.levitt@pharmacychecker.com

Founder and President, Prescription Justice, 3309 Robbins Road, #412, Springfield, Illinois 62704, gabriel@prescriptionjustice.org

Our company, PharmacyChecker.com verifies online pharmacies, and compares drug prices among those accredited in our online pharmacy Verification Program. Consumers, Americans and worldwide, access our website for free. Our website has received about 30 million visitors since we launched our virtual doors in 2003. Our niche is comparative pricing and the proper credentialing of international online pharmacies, which process prescription drug orders filled by licensed pharmacies in several countries, require valid prescriptions, and do not ship controlled drugs into the U.S. We also provide information about discounted U.S. pharmacy prices and patient assistance programs.  The information we provide helps people make the best decisions for themselves and their families when struggling with the cost of prescription drugs.[i]

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Trump’s Campaign Website’s Only Drug Prices Policy Was Importation

If you care about and follow the issue of drug prices, then this week was bizarre on the political scene. In a press conference with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) at her side, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was imploring the media not to focus only on impeachment but on drug prices, noting that she believes Congress and President Trump can continue to work together despite the friction.

Yesterday, Trump was courting seniors in Florida, extolling drug price reductions under his watch that kind of, you know, never really happened and promising to save Medicare from “socialism” (go figure, Medicare is already a huge government program). Bizarrely, he implied that Big Pharma might have something to do with the impeachment inquiry against him. Maybe his Secretary of Health and Human Services, former Eli Lilly Pres. Alex Azar, is in on the “coup”… just joking. 

In the haze of the political circus, something fundamental keeps getting lost. During Trump’s 2016 campaign, the only policy he put forward on his website to bring down drug prices was drug importation. See below screenshot:

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House Ways and Means Report Recommends Looking Abroad for Lower Drug Prices… Kind of…

A report (“A Painful Pill to Swallow: U.S. vs. International Prescription Drug Prices”) was released this week by the Congressional House Ways and Means Committee, showing that brand name drug prices are much lower – by about 75% on average – in other high-income countries. Who knew? Well, our analysis from this past summer showed that the average savings on popular brand drugs filled through online orders with Canadian pharmacies was 75%. When including pharmacies in other countries, the savings jumped to 90%. Those include pharmacies located in middle income countries, such as Turkey. For the record, these are comparisons among PharmacyChecker-accredited online pharmacies.

The committee’s report looked at prices of 79 brand name drugs in the following countries: Australia, Canada (specifically Ontario), Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. I highly recommend reading this report if you want to learn about international drug price differentials and better understand how Americans are getting ripped off.

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