Published: Thu, August 01, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

HHS unveils plan to allow drug imports to lower cost

HHS unveils plan to allow drug imports to lower cost

So much for President Donald Trump's "America first" motto.

President Donald Trump's administration said Wednesday it will create a pathway allowing Americans to import the lower-priced drugs legally and safely.

The agency also said that it would allow drugmakers to bring drugs that they sell more cheaply in foreign countries into the United States for sale here, potentially enabling them to sell below their contracted prices in the U.S.

Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services speaks during an event where President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order to Advance Kidney Health at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

"The administration's importation scheme is far too unsafe for American patients".

Drug industry shares were lower slightly, with the NYSE Arca Pharmaceutical Index off 0.25 percent versus a broader flat market.

It comes as the industry is facing a crescendo of consumer complaints over costs, as well as legislation from both parties in Congress to rein in costs, along with a sheaf of proposals from the Democratic presidential contenders. After the idea goes through regulatory review - which itself could take months, if not years - the Trump administration plan will only be a pilot, and there's little clarity on whether it'll ever be scaled up nationally.

Meanwhile, several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen.

The drug industry lobby, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, has successfully blocked past efforts in Washington to allow importation. And long-available drugs like insulin have seen price serial increases that forced some people with diabetes to ration their own doses.

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"The Administration has reason to believe that manufacturers might use this pathway as an opportunity to offer Americans lower-cost versions of their own drugs". Amy Klobuchar have introduced legislation to bring down the cost of of prescription drugs and to permit importation.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the panel that oversees Medicare said on Twitter that importation would lower prescription drug costs.

Sanders also raised the subject of cheap Canadian drugs during Tuesday's first instalment of the two-night debate between Democratic hopefuls.

President Trump has expressed support for a Senate bill that would cap medication costs for Medicare recipients and require the companies to pay rebates to consumers if price hikes outpace inflation.

"We heard about the pain Americans are feeling at the pharmacy counter", Mr. Azar said. Democrats in the House are pressing for a vote on a bill allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices on behalf of millions of seniors enrolled in its prescription drug plan.

"We all know how unfair it is that other countries are paying lower prices for the same drugs, and we're taking action", Azar said on a Wednesday call with reporters. But in the United States, Medicare is not permitted to negotiate with drug companies.

"We request that Health Canada provide clarity and assurances to Canadians that USA legislation will not inadvertently disrupt Canada's pharmaceutical supply and negatively impact patient care through greater drug shortages", the group wrote in a July 25 letter to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

Lee Branstetter, an economics and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University who served on former President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, explained to Salon that prices are higher in the US because the country does not employ the same policies approaches to lower drug prices used by many other developed countries, including price controls, reference pricing and cost-effectiveness thresholds.

But consumer groups have strongly backed the idea, arguing that it will pressure USA drugmakers to reduce their prices. Solving it should not come at the expense of Canadian patients who need their medication, he added.

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