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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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China Opens the Door to Personal Medicine Imports and Third-Party Online Platform Sales

A new Chinese law (in effect as of December 1, 2019) makes third-party online platform medicine sales legal, appropriately ends a draconian definition of counterfeit drugs, and effectively decriminalizes personal drug importation, but with a lot of gray! The changes were part of a major overhaul of the Drug Administrative Law of the People’s Republic of China (DAL). The previous linked to page is in Chinese but you can use Google translate to read it in English or another language. A summary in English can be found here:

Summary of Revised Chinese Drug Administration Law

For supporters of online access to safe and affordable imported medicines, this is kind of cool.

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Lower-Cost Imported Drugs Can Save Lives

Millions of people are dying because they are not getting the healthcare they need and that includes prescription drugs. New research has made a slam dunk case for why international online pharmacy options are needed urgently. We can’t allow drug companies to continue fooling the public about drug importation. 

A Gallup Poll survey announced yesterday found that 34 million Americans know someone who died because they could not afford medical treatments. That doesn’t mean prescription drug affordability specifically was the cause. In fact, the Gallup Poll lacks details about what kinds of medical treatments were too expensive. However, the poll identifies that a rising percentage of Americans are reporting going without prescriptions because of cost: from 18.9% in January to 22.9% in September of 2019. That would be about 58 million Americans who say they did not fill a prescription in the past 12 months because of cost. Since pharmacies in other countries charge much lower prices, and properly credentialed international online pharmacies make those drugs available, the veracity of the title of this blog post is undeniable.

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Canadian Ambassador Says Canada’s Too Small For America’s Drug Import Program. Now What?

There are few people more supportive than I am of prescription drug importation as one policy to help Americans access lower drug prices. But, since I accuse Big Pharma types and the FDA of ignoring reality about the safety of personal drug imports from licensed pharmacies in Canada and other countries, I won’t ignore reality! Canada is concerned about momentum on drug importation coming from the Trump administration and states, particularly Florida, citing its relatively small population and limited drug supplies. The answer is not to pull back on importation, but to expand the scope of countries in the supply network. 

As reported in Reuters earlier this week, the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. stated that she is “sympathetic to U.S. concerns regarding affordable prescription drugs.” On the other hand, she said, “Not only are we too small of a market, Canada cannot increase its domestic pharmaceutical drug supply to meet U.S. demand…” It’s not incredibly cynical of me to suggest that drug company lobbyists, who work internationally, have spoken with Canadian diplomats and said, “Look, we’re not going to increase your supply of far less expensive medicine just so Florida’s state importation plan can work and Trump can get a political win.” 

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Trump’s Campaign Website’s Only Drug Prices Policy Was Importation

If you care about and follow the issue of drug prices, then this week was bizarre on the political scene. In a press conference with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) at her side, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was imploring the media not to focus only on impeachment but on drug prices, noting that she believes Congress and President Trump can continue to work together despite the friction.

Yesterday, Trump was courting seniors in Florida, extolling drug price reductions under his watch that kind of, you know, never really happened and promising to save Medicare from “socialism” (go figure, Medicare is already a huge government program). Bizarrely, he implied that Big Pharma might have something to do with the impeachment inquiry against him. Maybe his Secretary of Health and Human Services, former Eli Lilly Pres. Alex Azar, is in on the “coup”… just joking. 

In the haze of the political circus, something fundamental keeps getting lost. During Trump’s 2016 campaign, the only policy he put forward on his website to bring down drug prices was drug importation. See below screenshot:

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House Ways and Means Report Recommends Looking Abroad for Lower Drug Prices… Kind of…

A report (“A Painful Pill to Swallow: U.S. vs. International Prescription Drug Prices”) was released this week by the Congressional House Ways and Means Committee, showing that brand name drug prices are much lower – by about 75% on average – in other high-income countries. Who knew? Well, our analysis from this past summer showed that the average savings on popular brand drugs filled through online orders with Canadian pharmacies was 75%. When including pharmacies in other countries, the savings jumped to 90%. Those include pharmacies located in middle income countries, such as Turkey. For the record, these are comparisons among PharmacyChecker-accredited online pharmacies.

The committee’s report looked at prices of 79 brand name drugs in the following countries: Australia, Canada (specifically Ontario), Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. I highly recommend reading this report if you want to learn about international drug price differentials and better understand how Americans are getting ripped off.

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Grassley’s History of Safe Drug Importation Support

This week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and FDA Commissioner declaring support for the Trump administration’s drug importation plan but warning about the need to up our game inspecting foreign drug manufacturing establishments. Grassley cautioned that the U.S. must ensure new imports are properly tracked and traced within the supply chain. While there are some details in Grassley’s recently stated position that are a bit blurry, the essence of what the senator is saying is very good. We can use global trade to force down prices on prescription drugs in the U.S. while continuing to work on and improve the safety of our already-existing global pharmaceutical supply.

Senator Grassley has vociferously supported drug importation for a long time. As reported in The Hill in 2012, he was intensely critical of President Obama for going back on his 2008 campaign promise to support dug importation:

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