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President Trump’s Tweet Against Merck CEO Detracts from His Own Inaction on Drug Prices

President Trump’s Tweet Against Merck CEO Detracts from His Own Inaction on Drug Prices

This week, Merck’s CEO, Kenneth Frazier, resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in protest over the president’s initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA. White supremacist groups came together to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, who headed the Confederate Army, and counter-protesters clashed this past Saturday. During the events, a self-affiliating white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19. The president condemned the violence but made it seem as if both sides, white supremacists and counter-protesters, were equally to blame, which is wrong. Mr. Frazier believed that President Trump should have forcefully and clearly criticized white supremacists.

I strongly agree with and applaud Mr. Frazier’s action. However, I felt compelled to write about this issue because President Trump mocked Mr. Frazier on Twitter about high drug prices. He wrote: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Mr. Frazier, the son of a hardworking janitor, worked his way up to his current position. He is also African American. For obvious and good reasons, he took a stand. But Mr. Frazier is also CEO of a Big Pharma company and not interested in lower drug prices.

President Trump is the one who needs to act, and President Trump is the one who can lower drug prices.

Trump supported legalizing importation of lower cost medications during his presidential campaign. It was one of his few positions that has wide, bi-partisan public support. He has the executive authority, via the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to expressly permit personal drug importation now.

Now is the time to use that authority.

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FDA Cannot Ensure the Safety of Medications Purchased from Canadian Pharmacies but can Health Canada?

Mostly.

Let’s get into semantics. The word “ensure” is defined as to secure or guarantee, to make sure or certain, or to make secure or safe, as from harm. I submit that the FDA cannot ensure the safety of Canadian OR U.S. drugs, but that doesn’t mean they are not safe and effective

 

Pharmaceutical Regulation in Canada

The precise communications of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have changed over the years on why it’s illegal for Americans to buy medications from Canada by personally importing them. Often the implication is that the agency cannot “ensure” or “guarantee” the safety of medications sold in Canadian pharmacies – and that’s why it’s illegal. Additionally, another reason used by the FDA  is that the drugs sold in Canada may not be approved by the FDA. These are not good arguments against buying lower cost medications from Canada because the Therapeutic Products Directorate of Health Canada, the FDA’s counterpart, is responsible for regulating the prescription drugs sold in Canadian pharmacies. Like the U.S., Canada has very strict rules to help ensure drug safety.

Neither country can guarantee the safety, efficacy and quality of medications in the two countries. However, their regulatory mechanisms have proven more than adequate, if not superior, so that patients buying medications will almost always obtain a properly manufactured medication. (more…)

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“American” Prescription Drugs Are Usually Imported

American medications are usually imported. Now you know.

Yesterday, PharmacyChecker released the findings of our new research that shows 70% of brand name medications sold in U.S. pharmacies are not made in America. Those same medications can be purchased at 70% less in Canada – and even less in other countries. As I’ve written before, there’s a troubling aspect of the public policy debate about drug importation: in many news stories, both policy-oriented and those dedicated to consumers, it seems as if drug importation is currently illegal, which is simply not true. Our data indicates that when Americans walk into their local Walgreens or CVS to fill a prescription, the pharmacist will mostly likely dispense an imported drug – that’s if the patient can actually afford it: 45 million did not fill their prescription last year because of cost.

Our findings come in the wake of an announcement from the Congressional Budget Office about The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2017 (S.469), which aims to make it expressly legal to import lower-cost medications from Canada. CBO’s report shows that if S.469 becomes law, it would shave almost $7 billion off the deficit by 2027. We believe the savings would be much greater. The CBO report reflected deficit savings, but did not include the savings that individuals would also realize from buying lower cost medications from Canada. (more…)

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