Last week, YouTube hosted a question and answer session at the White House with President Barack Obama. Americans across the country submitted over 140,000 questions to YouTube, and over a million people voted on which of those questions moderator Steve Grove should ask the president. We were not surprised to find out that the top healthcare question related to none other than prescription drug prices and importation:
Why [does] the same medication that I use cost so much less in Mexico or Canada even though it is being made here in the United States? (Noah, 00:29:03)
Obama’s answer was upfront and honest, and frankly, we liked what he had to say. The president said, “Canada and Mexico are bulk purchasers of those drugs, so they negotiate much cheaper drug prices with the drug companies. We still don’t do that, and I actually think it’s something we should do – it would save us money.” We were also pleased to hear him reopening communication about drug importation. “It may be that importation is still something we should look at in terms of further lowering the price of drugs,” the president said.
Obama’s past record on the matter is grey. As we’ve reported, when he was a senator, and also as a presidential candidate, Obama strongly supported the idea of drug importation to lower drug costs. As president, however, in order to get the financial backing and political support of the pharmaceutical industry for the health reform law he appears to have tabled support for drug importation and drug price negotiations. Some faulted the administration’s policy shift for the failure of Senator Byron Dorgan’s amendment, H.R. 3590, to legalize drug importation.
Perhaps with further legislative support, however, the president will do more than just “look at” importation as an option. At the very least, because such a large number of Americans are struggling with prescription drug prices, we hope the administration will exercise a “do no harm” policy by not taking actions that would hinder current access to safe and affordable personal drug importation. Proactively legalizing personal drug importation (with a prescription, for non-controlled substances and from licensed pharmacies) would be even better.Tagged with: Americans, Canada, drug costs, Drug Importation, Drug Prices, healthcare, Mexico, personal drug importation, President Obama, Senator Byron Dorgan, YouTube.com