This week, the Trump administration formally announced support for not only state prescription drug importation programs, but also HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s own importation plan. Until this week, it was known that Trump had instructed Secretary Azar to work with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida to help implement its new law to permit wholesale drug importation from Canada for public payers, which also includes importation from other countries for the private market. Now, there is real movement.
Before diving into Trump’s drug importation plan more fully, please take note that this plan actually allows for the importation of what the FDA has called “foreign unapproved drugs,” ones that they have said they don’t want Americans ordering online and importing for their own use. These drugs, as explained below, are safe and effective foreign brand versions of the same drugs sold here. This recognition of equivalent brand drug safety is a step in the right direction.
UPDATE: the video showing Senator’s Snowe’s floor remarks is no longer available. Please consult the congressional record for this date to read Senator Snowe’s full remarks.
In support of Senator John McCain’s amendment to facilitate safe personal drug importation from credentialed online pharmacies, Senator Olympia Snowe spoke comprehensively, passionately and honestly about the issue. Though the amendment did not pass, Americans interested in online pharmacies and drug affordability should be aware of some of Ms. Snowe’s most pertinent points in support of personal drug importation. The full senate floor presentation is available for viewing as well.
“Americans are facing tremendous increases in prescription drug prices for far too long and I think it’s at a point in which Congress should address this issue,” said Senator Snowe. “In 2010 AARP found that retail prices for the most popular brand name drugs increased 41.5% while the consumer price index rose just 13%. In other words the cost of prescription drugs rose more than three times as much as the inflation rate.”
Senator Snowe wisely reminded her colleagues that most of “America’s” drug products are already manufactured overseas. Senator Snowe points out that the very medications America consumes come from manufacturing facilities in over 50 countries and “not all of those facilities are even inspected….”
We need a more competitive pharmaceutical market. Senator Snowe points out (by quoting a former Pfizer CEO) that more competition from imported medication will lead to lower prices, higher quality products, and more innovation.
The amendment is far more modest than previous drug importation bills and only calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make a list of approved online pharmacies for personal drug importation but it would not allow for greater “wholesale” drug importation. PharmacyChecker.com already provides such a list that consumers can freely access. Ironically, while Senator Snowe didn’t mention it, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, actually published such a list when she was governor of Kansas for a state drug importation program.
For those interested in learning more about why personal drug importation should be made more available to Americans please watch Senator Snowe’s floor remarks.