U.S. eyes Canada as possible solution for high-priced pharmaceuticals
Medication is shown in this undated stock image. (David Watkins / Shutterstock.com)
Ryan Flanagan, CTVNews.ca with files from The Associated Press
Published Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:43AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2019 10:04AM EST
U.S. lawmakers are looking to Canada as they attempt to lower prescription drug costs for Americans.
Two U.S. senators – Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Amy Klobuchar – introduced legislation Wednesday that would allow Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada for personal use.
The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019 aims to increase competition for American drug manufacturers in hopes of bringing down costs.
“For decades, safe and affordable prescription drugs have been for sale just across the border, but legally out of reach for American families,” Grassley said in a statement.According to Klobuchar, many medications cost twice as much in the U.S. as they do in Canada.
Some Americans already purchase Canadian medication over the internet, even though doing so is technically illegal in the U.S. By some estimates, millions of Americans import prescription drugs they have bought online.
Three more bills aimed at lowering prescription costs are set to be introduced in the U.S. Congress Thursday by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, including one that would allow Americans to import medications from Canada and other countries when doing so is cheaper than getting the same drug in the U.S.
The other Sanders-Cumming proposals include one bill allowing more generic medicationstocompete with brand-name drugs and another allowing the Medicareseniors’ health program to negotiate directly with drug producers.
“If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them,” Sanders told The Associated Press in a statement.
All three proposals are similar to ideas that have been floated by U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration, albeit taken farther than Trump has suggested.
Trump tweeted last weekend that pharmaceutical producers were “not being fair to the consumer, or to our Country!” by “not living up to their commitments on pricing.” These comments followed manufacturers raising prices on hundreds of medications. Trump has frequently decried the cost of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. as compared to countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, where governments take a more active role in pricing.
The pharmaceutical industry, which the Center for Responsive Politics says spent nearly $280 million lobbying federal politicians in 2017, is expected to oppose these proposals.
Getting any legislation to allow imported medications to pass through Congress is also expected to be a major hurdle, as the Republicans who control the Senate prefer a free-market approach to the government intervention touted by Trump and the lawmakers behind this week’s legislation. As a result, it is unlikely either the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act or the Sanders-Cummings proposals will ever become law – leaving Americans continuing to pay far more for prescription drugs than people in Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere.