Last year former President Trump’s administration approved importing drugs from Canada, where the prices of drugs are kept lower by law. Although there has been a provision in law since 2003 that gives a presidential administration authority to do so, last year was the first time it had happened.
This action followed years of lobbying by TSCL and many other organizations to allow drug importation as a way of lowering prices.
However, the importation of any drug has not yet happened. That is because under the federal law each state must pass its own laws for importing drugs and currently only Florida, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Vermont are pursuing such efforts.
In addition, there is a major fight against importing drugs by the giant drug makers’ lobbying organization PhRMA which has filed a lawsuit looking to overturn the importation authorization.
In its response to that lawsuit the Biden administration last Friday said it has no timeline about allowing states to import drugs from Canada. It also said there are still several steps that must be taken before importation can begin.
In addition, even if all those steps are taken the Canadian government has let it be known that it will not allow drugs to be exported if it would endanger Canada’s own drug supply.
During his presidential campaign President Biden supported drug importation and in the Friday court filing his administration is looking to have the PhRMA lawsuit thrown out of court.
Although Florida is farthest along in setting up a drug importation program it turns out that, according to Kaiser Health News, “the state program would have little direct effect on most Floridians.
“That is because the state effort is geared to getting lower-cost drugs to state agencies for prison health programs and other needs and for Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor. Medicaid enrollees already pay little or nothing for medications.
“Florida has identified about 150 drugs — many of them expensive HIV/AIDS, diabetes and mental health medicines — that it plans to import. Insulin, one of the most expensive widely used drugs, is not included in the program.”
On the other hand, Colorado’s program “would help individuals buy the medicines at their local2 pharmacy. Colorado also would give health insurance plans the option to include imported drugs in their benefit designs.”
Lowering the prices of prescription drugs remains a major priority to us at TSCL and we will be working with Congress to pass whatever legislation is necessary to get that job done. The Biden administration’s action on Friday gives us confidence that the President will support that effort.