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Canada to Trump: You can not take our prescription drugs

Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu on Friday announced new measures to protect the country’s drug supply from bulk imports that could exacerbate drug shortages. It prevents the distribution of certain substances outside Canada if it would cause or exacerbate a deficiency.

“Our health care system is a symbol of our national identity and we are committed to defending it,” Hajdu said. “The actions we are taking today will help protect Canadians’ access to the medicine they trust.”

Imports of drugs from abroad, especially Canada, are a key element of Trump’s plan to lower prices, a key priority in his campaign and first term. After the president issued a decree in July urging to allow such imports, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule in late September, establishing a path for states and certain other entities to create drug import programs.

President-elect Joe Biden has also expressed interest in allowing consumers to import drugs from other countries as long as the federal government finds them safe.

Last week, Florida became the first state to submit an import proposal to the federal agency to set up such a program under the newly issued rule. The plan initially calls for the importation of several classes of drugs, including maintenance drugs, to help those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and HIV / AIDS. Several other states, including Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine, have also enacted laws to pursue federal approval for imports.

In response to the growing momentum, a trio of pharmaceutical industry groups filed a court request for import last week, saying the effort would endanger American health and not reduce prices.

“The final rule does not overcome the well-documented import security concerns expressed by nearly two decades of former HHS secretaries across party lines or show that the proposal will result in any ̵

1; let alone significant – cost savings for U.S. consumers,” he said. James Stansel, General Counsel at PhRMA, the largest lobbying company in the industry.

Health policy experts have also questioned the effectiveness of drug imports from Canada – where an independent body set up by parliament ensures that drug prices on brands are not too high. Even HHS secretary Alex Azar called it a “gimmick” in 2018 before changing tune.

In the announcement of the measures last week, the Canadian Ministry of Health said that it had repeatedly stated that the US government would not do much to lower prices in America, as Canada represents only 2% of global drug sales, while the US accounts for 44 % of sales.

The Canadian Pharmaceutical Association has warned that the nation is already suffering from drug shortages, which have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, days before then-Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders went north with diabetic patients seeking cheaper insulin, a coalition of 15 Canadian medical professionals and patient groups pressured the government to protect the country’s pharmaceutical supply.
Although it has only weeks left in office, the Trump administration has recently pushed through several measures aimed at lowering drug prices. Earlier this month, it revealed two controversial rules that immediately triggered legal threats from the pharmaceutical industry.
One will get Medicare to pay the same price for certain expensive prescription drugs as other developed countries, a “most favored nation price.”

The other would effectively ban drug manufacturers from offering discounts to pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies – a radical change in the way many drugs are priced and paid for in Medicare and Medicaid. Instead, drug companies are encouraged to pass on the discounts directly to patients at the pharmacy counter.

The administration had withdrawn from issuing this rule last year after it was found to increase costs for senior citizens and the federal government.

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