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:
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.