I’m proud to share that PharmacyChecker has published a white paper that
examines prices and availability of newly approved generic drugs. Our report,
based on 40 generic medications that were approved from 2017-2018, clearly
shows that generic drug approvals often don’t lead to greater affordability or
even access here in the U.S. We were inspired to examine pricing in addition to
availability after seeing availability research conducted by Kaiser Health News (KHN).
The KHN article concluded that the lack to generic availability in the U.S. “means
thousands or even millions of patients have no option beyond buying branded
drugs that can cost thousands of dollars per month.” As an option for those who
cannot afford that, PharmacyChecker found that 25% of the generic medications
were available online, internationally through pharmacies that are accredited
in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program.
Out of 40 generic medications that
were approved from 2017 to 2018, PharmacyChecker research found the following:
One of the Sustainable Development Goals, 3.8, created under UN auspices is: “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.” Lower-income countries where majorities of citizens can’t afford basic healthcare are deserving of our urgent and generous help, but the pain and anguish faced by American families where people are dying because they can’t afford medicine must also be addressed.
Organized under the support of the World Health Organization
(WHO), as part of the effort to achieve global healthcare goals, twelve
multilateral global health and development organizations are seeking public
comments to help them develop their “Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives
and Well-being for All.” My comment is below.
Trump supports prescription drug importation, and he’s not alone. An article by Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz headlined Trump’s support for drug importation to fight high drug prices at the state level. His article delves into the history of earlier state importation attempts, which were personal drug importation not wholesale drug importation programs. But the coolest thing I took from it was that the three states that passed prescription drug importation laws have governors across the political spectrum. None are traditional right-wing Republicans or super left Democrats. What does that look like?
In Florida, you have Governor Ron DeSantis, fashioning
himself in the mold of a Trumpist Republican.
In Vermont, you have Governor Phil Scott, who can best be
described with a phrase practically unheard of these days: Liberal
Finally, newly elected Governor Jared Polis from Colorado is
a moderate Democrat.
While the state importation bill failed to advance in Utah, its vociferous champion in the state assembly is a very conservative Republican, Norm Thurston (Provo).
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!
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.
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.