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Press release
July 31, 2019

Statement: Allowing America’s Consumers to Buy Prescription Drugs from Canada is a Good Short-Term Tactic not a Solid, Long-Term Policy Solution

Washington, D.C. – Families USA executive director Frederick Isasi released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to allow American consumers to purchase prescription drugs from Canada as well as other pharmaceutical flexibilities.

“Families USA strongly supports the Trump Administration’s decision to allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada so that consumers in America will have access to the same safe, lower-cost medicines Canadian families use every day. It is an important step forward to lowering costs for some families and we will be watching carefully to see if the Administration follows through with this promise and if it will have a lasting impact.

However, this is a tactic, not a policy solution. It is a work-around that will not solve the underlying prescription drug cost problem in the United States – massive market failure stemming from unregulated monopolistic pricing by drug companies that incentivizes legal tricks instead of innovation to save lives. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that relying on Canada’s ability to regulate drug prices is a comprehensive or long-term solution for the United States. Most importantly, it also does not solve the egregious problem of pharmaceutical price abuses in America. The very fact that one serious policy option relies on another country’s price regulation framework is itself a profound indictment on how broken the U.S. system is.

Moreover, it’s not clear how Canada will react to this proposal. Will they have the wherewithal to take on the pharmaceutical companies not only for their people but the millions of Americans who might be able to rely on importation -- that could result in lower prices for all on both sides of the border? Or will they let the industry continue to fracture us and try to block U.S. importation?

The additional flexibility the Administration has announced to let drug companies circumvent pharmacy benefit managers and others that industry claims are increasing prices puts the ball squarely in the drug companies’ court. Will they show up with lower costs drugs for families or will their bluff have been called?

This is an important step in reining-in drug company abuses. However, Canadian importation would exclude biologics and some other high-costs drugs. Let’s not forget that the Trump administration just renegotiated NAFTA and made it harder for these drugs to be available at lower prices. The agreement has yet to be finalized. The Administration needs to unify all its policies to ensure our families are not held hostage by the pharmaceutical industry’s pricing abuses.

Families USA will continue monitoring the Administration’s plans to address prescription drug costs as well as working with leaders on Capitol Hill to craft legislation that allows families to purchase the life-saving medicine they need without going bankrupt.”