Canadian Government and U.S. Pharmaceutical Industry Push Back Against Drug Imports

President Donald Trump’s plan to reduce drug costs in the U.S. by importing prescription drugs from Canada is facing opposition from the Canadian government and the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Despite having the authority to import drugs since 2003, the U.S. has never put importation into practice.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to release a drug importation plan in January 2020, under which state governments could import prescription drugs from Canadian suppliers with permission from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, the plan requires Canada’s support, and the country’s government argues its population is too small to share their drug supply with the U.S.

“It is important to recognize that Canada’s market for pharmaceuticals is too small to have any real impact on U.S. drug prices,” said Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s acting ambassador to the U.S. “Canada’s priority is to ensure a steady and solid supply of medications at affordable prices for Canadians.”

In addition, drug companies, including Amgen, Genentech, Bayer, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly, have increased efforts to push officials to block the plan in Canada. The trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $6.2 million on lobbying against drug importation in the third quarter of 2019.

“The pharmaceutical industry enjoys very high prices in the U.S. – much higher than in other countries,” said Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy of State Health Policy. “They have moved their advocacy from this country, where laws are being enacted, … to Canada to try to scare Canada.”

Source: The Hill, December 1, 2019.