Yesterday, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate called the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, which, if passed, would legalize the importation of lower cost medications from Canada, by wholesalers for re-sale and individuals for personal use. I support this bill as a great step in the right direction to reign in drug prices. The bill’s sponsors, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Bob Casey (D-PA) are to be commended. Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced a companion bill in the House. You can watch the press conference announcing the new importation legislation above.
If passed, the new bill directs the FDA to finally help Americans do what they do already, but they would have new FDA assurances, which is purchase lower cost medication from safe international online pharmacies. It also would allow wholesalers in the U.S. to buy medications at lower cost from FDA-registered Canadian wholesalers, so that U.S. retail pharmacies can charge lower prices, too, which will mean fewer international, online retail sales.
For the last 15 years, we’ve been verifying international online pharmacies, ones that extend beyond Canada, and comparing their prices. Empirical and peer-reviewed literature studying online pharmacies demonstrates the significant savings consumers find through safe importation. We know for a fact this works. (more…)
In this blog post I’m going to get personal. Not about me but about importing medication from Canada and other countries. You’ll see what I mean. Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the budget bill, which would have paved the way for future deficit neutral spending to implement new regulations expanding lawful access to lower cost imported medication from wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated 52-46.
Let’s forget about the fact that drug companies give members of Congress lots of money. OK, I can’t forget: it’s about two billion dollars over the last 15 years. Some senators who voted against the amendment cited their concerns with safety as a basis for their vote. Let me explain why they are wrong, at least when it comes to personal vs. wholesale drug importation. (more…)
Many of you know that in other countries, such as Australia and Canada, government agencies negotiate with pharmaceutical companies through myriad policy interventions to keep prescription drugs affordable for their citizens. This article explains how that’s done, why it works – but also identifies the tradeoffs where in some cases a new drug is not available outside the U.S. because regulators decide it doesn’t offer additional value over existing drugs.
It also addresses the issue of how research and development to find new drugs may be negatively affected if the U.S. institutes more control over drug prices. Some people argue that broader access to currently available drugs at lower prices means fewer new breakthrough drugs coming to market. [EDIT 12/9/2016: I wanted to make clear that many people do not agree with this position and argue that more drug company profits are spent on marketing and advertising than on research and development and the pharmaceutical industry greatly exaggerates the prospects of less innovation due to drug price controls].
In speaking with lots of people on different sides of the political spectrum and with contrasting governing philosophies — everyone agrees that us Americans are getting a bad deal on drug prices right now. This VOX piece really speaks to the issues at hand, objectively and truthfully, and if you’re interested in “getting it” you should read it.
It’s a national disgrace that this Thanksgiving Americans will go without medication because prices are too high. First Coast News in Jacksonville, FL, and other ABC local stations, teamed up to report on the continuing crisis of high drug prices. Its opening is chilling: “In living rooms and kitchens across the First Coast, families are choosing between food and vital medicine.”
The report notes that prescription drug spending is much higher in the United States than in other rich countries. Why? “Well, other countries directly negotiate drug prices on behalf of their citizens.” And that explains why Americans are buying medications from outside the U.S., despite the federal restrictions. They are cheaper overseas.
Today I’m not feeling like just slamming Big Pharma and drug companies for their greed. On the heels of this bizarre national election, it’s our elected leaders who need to feel the heat. President Elect Donald Trump states: “Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.” It’s one of the few things that Americans, Right, Left and Center, would agree on.
For the record, while I supported Obama for president, I was highly critical of the Obama administration for its obscenely cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, one that has led to unprecedented increases in drug prices during his tenure. During his first presidential campaign, President Obama had vowed to stand up to drug companies, and he supported allowing Americans to import medication to find savings in other countries. He ended up making a deal with Big Pharma to help him pass Obamacare, dumping his support for Medicare drug prices negotiations and importation.
Candidate Donald Trump voiced his support for federal drug price negotiations to bring down drug prices under Medicare and allowing consumers access to lower drug prices from overseas. Those are two policies that the pharmaceutical industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars defeating over the past decade through large contributions to Democrats and Republican alike in Congress. Of course, Americans can order medications online from foreign countries and import them for personal use, but under the Obama administration it has become more difficult and remains technically illegal.
Mr. Trump states on his website: “Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.” During the Republican Primary President-Elect Trump vowed to stand up to the drug companies, mocking the career politicians who take their money and do their bidding in Congress.
From the Right, Americans who hate the heavy hand of big government will laud a President Trump that tells the FDA not to interfere with their freedom to purchase a lower cost medication from Canada or another country. From the Left and in states that border Canada, such as Michigan, Americans would love to see a president who will stand up to the outrageous U.S. pricing policies of multinational pharmaceutical companies by taking actions to expand access lower cost imported medications.
With high drug prices viewed as the #1 healthcare cost concern in the county, ALL AMERICANS WANT TO SEE TRUMP STAND UP TO BIG PHARMA.
Earlier this month 33 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama asking him to use executive authority to tackle the crisis of high drug prices in the U.S. The gist of the letter is that Congress is paralyzed (surprise surprise) to act. So, while we wait, and wait, and wait for Congress — the urgency of high drug prices calls for executive action.
One of the steps recommended is to expressly permit Americans to import lower cost medications for personal use. Well, Americans already do that and while its technically illegal, people aren’t prosecuted for doing so, and thus it’s generally permitted. But if it was expresslypermitted it would remove the stigma of illegality, embolden many more consumers to import lower cost medication, deflate and defang the scare tactics of the pharmaceutical industry about importation and online pharmacies, and would instill more price competition into the U.S. market to bring down prices at local pharmacies.
A few questions. Don’t we need to pass a new law to “legalize” importation? Why do I choose to bold the phrase expresslypermit? Would it be legal or expressly permitted? Maybe both? (more…)