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Amazon’s Pharmacy Should Support Importation to Offer Lower Drug Prices

Amazon pharmacy

Originally published on LinkedIn.

With drug prices in the spotlight of our national healthcare debate, one could certainly view Amazon’s entry last year into the pharmacy space as a welcome development. After all, when it comes to upending traditional business models by undercutting their prices, Amazon is king. For Americans, the tens of millions who don’t fill prescriptions each year because of cost, relief can’t come soon enough. For Amazon to succeed, Jeff Bezos should consider teaming up with Senator Bernie Sanders. Amazon’s support for The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—to allow for the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs—would be the game changer that would have American patients cheering and the pharmaceutical industry crying.

Recent bi-partisan efforts to bring lower-cost generic drugs to market faster are a great step in the right direction, but they don’t infuse our captive pharmaceutical marketplace with competition to lower prices on patented – brand name – prescription drugs. Importation would fuel that competition. An unlikely alliance between our country’s most successful capitalist and trailblazing, Democratic Socialist is what we need!

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Caravans to Canada for Lower-Cost Insulin Are Not Necessary to Import Safely

Activists with diabetes, organized through advocacy group T1International, are trekking or “caravanning” to Canada to buy lower cost insulin. Why wouldn’t they? According to reporting in the Washington Post, they ended up paying $1,200 for products that would have cost $12,000 in the United States. One vial of Humalog in the U.S. can cost $300 compared to $30 in Canada.

According to the Post, the activists “see buying in Canada as a short-term emergency measure and a way to call attention to U.S. pricing — not the answer.”

I fully agree that personal imports of more affordable medicine are an emergency measure, and I’d be happy if it were a short-term one. A recent T1International survey found that 26% of Americans who take insulin rationed their medication at least once last year because of cost. That’s higher than the worldwide rate of 18%. People with diabetes should not be forced to travel to Canada to get affordable insulin when it can be mailed.

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Wholesale Drug Importation; It’s Nothing Personal

Wholesale drug importation

This week, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed into a law HB 19 to create a state prescription drug importation program. The goal is to lower the state’s prescription drug bill and the prices Florida residents pay at pharmacy counters by importing lower-cost medicines from Canada and other countries that have similarly strict pharmaceutical regulatory standards.

The main point of this blog post is to state that this law in Florida, much like the laws that have passed in Vermont and Colorado, create WHOLESALE not PERSONAL drug importation programs.

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