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.”
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 ̵
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 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.