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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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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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Florida’s House Drug Importation Bill – HB 19 – Easily Passes

Drug Importation Bill - Drug Prices World

Yesterday, the Florida House Legislature voted 93-22 passing HB 19. The bill creates programs and processes for importing prescription drugs from Canada, as well as from other countries. HB 19 actually calls for the creation of two programs, which I have summarized below. For a deep dive, you should read the Staff Analysis from the Florida House of Representatives.

Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program (CPDIP)

If HB 19 becomes law, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) will create processes that meet the safety protocols called for in the bill, which include inspections and testing of drugs, to allow registered wholesale pharmacies to import from Florida-registered Canadian wholesalers. In this program, lower drug prices will save taxpayers money for government funded-entities, such as county health departments, free clinics, and the Department of Corrections.

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Is the FDA Misleading Congress About the Safety of Imported Medicines?

FDA misleads Congress about drug importation

Properly licensed foreign pharmacies help Americans access medicines that they can’t afford here. Counterfeit drug makers and sellers, fentanyl and opioid dealers, and dangerous pharmacy websites are worthy targets of serious regulatory or criminal enforcement actions. There’s no gray there.

An article I wrote that was recently published in The Nation hopefully brings to greater public attention the FDA’s conflation of clearly safe channels for personal prescription imports with counterfeit drugs, the opioid crisis, and rogue online pharmacies. That conflation, one associated with the media relations work of the pharmaceutical industry – is used to justify FDA enforcement actions that exacerbate the crisis of high drug prices by threatening programs that facilitate prescription fulfillment from foreign, licensed pharmacies.

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Freeh Group International Addendum on Drug Import Proposals

Earlier this week, a report (the “FGI Report”) opposing prescription drug importation proposals was released by the law firm of Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan LLP and the Freeh Group International. Both organizations are headed by former FBI Director, Louis Freeh. I’m hesitant to criticize reports authored by dedicated Americans who spent years in public service protecting the safety of the American people in federal law enforcement. On the other hand, the intent of tacking the name of a venerated American patriot on a report that mirrors the lobbying agenda of the pharmaceutical industry is clearly being used to deter voices opposed to that agenda.

Summing it all up: this report was commissioned, I believe, by the drug company-funded group Partnership for Safe Medicines or a similar organization. As noted in the report’s title, it’s an addendum to an earlier report published in late 2017, one that was promoted at a Partnership for Safe Medicines media event at the National Press Club.

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Senator Grassley on medication savings: “Have you considered Mexico or online”?

Grassley asks why not buy medicine online or go to Mexico

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who introduced the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019, may well emerge as a major champion for Americans who import medicine because the prices are too high here in the U.S.

An astounding thing happened during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices this past Tuesday. Committee Chairman Grassley asked one of the witnesses, a mother struggling with the cost of insulin for her young adult son, if she had considered importing medicine to afford it.

Think about that.

Under most circumstances, according to the FDA, it’s illegal to import medicine for personal use. And yet at a high-profile Senate committee hearing, the venerable Sen. Grassley seemed genuinely curious why Ms. Sego didn’t get lower-cost medication online from another country.

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