In late March, drug giant Bayer Pharmaceuticals, out of the goodness of its heart, agreed to donate three million tablets of chloroquine phosphate to help the Trump administration get this drug into U.S. pharmacies. That’s according to an investigative article in Vanity Fair by Katherine Eban, called:
How inflammatory?! For Trump lovers, that title has the ring of just more biased, liberal media Trump-bashing. For Trump haters, it’s another reason to hate Trump. This post isn’t about our constant partisan divide or even Bayer or other evil drug companies, although they are referenced. It’s also not about unproven treatments for Covid-19 (that was last week). All parties should be interested in the story behind the story: independent drug testing and its potential importance to determine if a drug is safe and effective.
I’m a big fan of testing prescription drugs to see if they have the right stuff (to put it eloquently). Here’s why: lots of pharma-funded groups and some people at the FDA say don’t buy medicine online from foreign countries because it’s allegedly unsafe. Yet, independent testing of about a thousand prescription drug orders has shown that personal drug importation can and is done very safely. Periodic testing of foreign online pharmacy medication orders over the last decade has proven the efficacy of brand name Celebrex, Lipitor, Nexium, Viagra and Zoloft; generic ciprofloxacin and atorvastatin; and, just last month, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine phosphate.
There are few people more supportive than I am of prescription drug importation as one policy to help Americans access lower drug prices. But, since I accuse Big Pharma types and the FDA of ignoring reality about the safety of personal drug imports from licensed pharmacies in Canada and other countries, I won’t ignore reality! Canada is concerned about momentum on drug importation coming from the Trump administration and states, particularly Florida, citing its relatively small population and limited drug supplies. The answer is not to pull back on importation, but to expand the scope of countries in the supply network.
As reported in Reuters earlier this week, the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. stated that she is “sympathetic to U.S. concerns regarding affordable prescription drugs.” On the other hand, she said, “Not only are we too small of a market, Canada cannot increase its domestic pharmaceutical drug supply to meet U.S. demand…” It’s not incredibly cynical of me to suggest that drug company lobbyists, who work internationally, have spoken with Canadian diplomats and said, “Look, we’re not going to increase your supply of far less expensive medicine just so Florida’s state importation plan can work and Trump can get a political win.”
Stephen Salant, PhD, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Michigan and research professor at the University of Maryland has written a paper that I believe gives voice and pays respect to the millions of Americans who import or are on the verge of importing lower-cost medication using online pharmacies. Let me be clear: this guy is a world-renowned economist. An expert in applied microeconomics, Professor Salant is most famous for his work in the economics of natural resources and industrial organization. Over the past few years, he has turned his attention to the problem of high drug prices in America and how to solve it without decreasing investment in research and development to create new life-saving drugs.
I’ll articulate the basic points of Salant’s paper, as I
understand them, and then give some commentary.