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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Trump supports prescription drug importation, and he’s not alone. An article by Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz headlined Trump’s support for drug importation to fight high drug prices at the state level. His article delves into the history of earlier state importation attempts, which were personal drug importation not wholesale drug importation programs. But the coolest thing I took from it was that the three states that passed prescription drug importation laws have governors across the political spectrum. None are traditional right-wing Republicans or super left Democrats. What does that look like?

In Florida, you have Governor Ron DeSantis, fashioning himself in the mold of a Trumpist Republican.

In Vermont, you have Governor Phil Scott, who can best be described with a phrase practically unheard of these days: Liberal Republican.

Finally, newly elected Governor Jared Polis from Colorado is a moderate Democrat.

While the state importation bill failed to advance in Utah, its vociferous champion in the state assembly is a very conservative Republican, Norm Thurston (Provo).

In the U.S. Congress, far more Democrats support drug importation bills than do Republicans. Democratic (but sometimes independent) Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (S. 97) has 24 co-sponsors but none are Republican. The identical companion bill in the House, introduced by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), H.R. 447, has 26 Democratic co-sponsors and zero Republicans.

Another importation bill was introduced on a bipartisan basis by Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act, S. 61. It has 11 co-sponsors, but Sen. Grassley is the only Republican. The House counterpart, H.R. 478, has 11 co-sponsors, among which only one (to her credit) is a Republican, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA).

Finally, there’s the Affordable Insulin Act, H.R. 1478, which would make it legal to import insulin from Canada. Introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), it has one co-sponsor, which I’m happy to say is a Republican, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL). If interested, I wrote at length about caravans to Canada to buy insulin and possible actions activists could take to help people safely import insulin through mail-order pharmacy.

I have yet to hear Trump’s support for any of the aforementioned federal legislation. Trump’s most vocal support is not surprisingly directed toward his ideological bedfellow, Governor Ron DeSantis. People will say, and not without justification, that this is politics to the core. Trump needs Florida to win in 2020, DeSantis is a Trump supporter and now needs him for his importation plan. As a reminder, however, importing prescription medications, not Medicare drug price negotiations, was the only policy to lower drug prices published on Trump’s campaign website. So, his support for DeSantis cannot be seen as inconsistent with his campaign promises.

The state importation laws will only lead to importing lower-cost drugs from Canada with approval from the federal government. DeSantis has said, as reported in the Associated Press, that Trump told Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Florida to move importation forward.

In the final analysis, this non-partisanship vibe on importation is real. According to Galewitz, the three states are now working together and will jointly present a drug importation program for review by HHS Secretary Alex Azar. So even if Trump’s Twitter praise is dedicated to DeSantis, all three states could benefit from the administration’s support.

The traditional Republican and Democratic lines in the sand on many issues—immigration, guns and abortion, for example—do not exist on drug prices. At least when it comes to real people: most Republicans, Democrats, and indies! The country is united against Big Pharma, not just with importation (80% support), but on Medicare drug price negotiations (86% support) and other policies to lower drug prices. Members of Congress who are beholden to drug company contributions can fail in 2020 on this issue. As of now, that looks good for the Democrats, but many of them, too, are in industry’s pocket.

The arguments against the wholesale drug importation programs will continue unabated – funded by drug companies. At Prescription Justice, we published a statement of support for the Florida law and those in the other states, too, which went a long way to debunk the myths against importation. Happy reading!

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