One week ago, the CEO and founder of PharmacyChecker.com, Tod Cooperman, and RxRights leader Lee Graczyk, published an op-ed in The Hill’s Congress Blog, entitled: “The candidates agree: Legalize personal imports of prescription drugs.” In a nutshell, as the title makes clear, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both support making it expressly legal to import prescription medication for personal use. This issue is sometimes one of life and death as the media spotlight on Mylan’s drug price spike of Epipen last week makes clear. You might be thinking, “Well, no one gets busted for importing personal prescription orders now so what’s the big deal?” It’s a huge deal.
Currently, about four million Americans import medication for personal use due to cost. But there are more Americans who need to in order to get the medications prescribed to them. If it were technically legal, millions more Americans would buy lower cost medication from Canada and other countries. How many? Hard to say, but we know that about 35 million did not fill a prescription in 2014 due to cost so it would be fair to double the amount to eight million, maybe 10 million. That’s guesswork but the point is that IF they need to, the personal importation option would be legal instead of the current “yellow light”, which is commonsense fairness.
But if people already “can” do it using international online pharmacies and traveling to Canada and Mexico, and in some cases through self-insured municipalities and companies in the U.S., why would the technical “legality” change things? Well, as much as I’ve criticized the FDA for its borderline dishonesty on the subject of online pharmacies and personal drug importation – it’s the agency’s job to deter the practice because….it’s technically ILLEGAL. If it were not then FDA would end its frustrating media campaign that categorically discourages international prescription orders; healthcare providers would be more emboldened to recommend personal drug importation to their patients, more consumer groups would start recommending safe international online pharmacies, the insurers and pharmacy benefit managers would even potentially tap in to importation, and Big Pharma’s scare tactics about counterfeit drugs online would be more fully discredited.
I wrote “really” in the title of this post because we’ve heard this story before. President Obama supported legalizing personal drug importation as a senator and during his first run for the presidency, only to break his promise via a deal with the drug companies to pass Obamacare. Nonetheless, I still believe both the candidates would support it if Congress sent them a bill ready to sign. But moving Congress is a heavy lift to say the least.
Congress is the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in donations from drug companies and their trade groups. It is also bombarded by lobbyists and Pharma front groups willing to lie about safety issues related to importing medication for personal use. Read Big Pharma’s stranglehold on Washington.
Should we despair? No. Drug prices have become the single greatest healthcare concern for Americans. Even in violation of the law, millions of Americans buy lower cost medications outside the U.S. They are angry and not going to take it anymore. Go to RxRights and Take Action. Americans are going to win this next year!
Tagged with: clinton, cooperman, graczyk, RxRights, the hill, trump