NRLN President's Forum
Trump Administration Issues Plan for Drug Imports
The Trump administration announced last week (July 31) a plan for allowing the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from other countries, particularly Canada. Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), issued a plan outlining the steps it will take, including issuing a regulation to allow for states and pharmacies to submit drug importation pilot programs for approval.
Since 2009 the National Retiree Legislative Network has advocated that Americans, especially retirees living on fixed incomes, be allowed to have access to safe, lower price imported drugs that meet the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards.
The NRLN's lobbying efforts to gain prescription drug importation has included Action Alerts to members of Congress and President Trump; a petition to President Trump signed by 5,824 NRLN grassroots advocates, a meeting that the NRLN Executive Director and I had with an HHS Under Secretary and two installments of our whitepaper on high prescription drug prices that we have lobbied on Capitol Hill during fly-ins. Click here to access whitepaper.
Our lobbying efforts for the importation of safe and lower priced medicines is a testament to the NRLN's tenacity to constantly keep pressure on policy makers and our patience to gain our objective.
An important element of the Administration's plan is the FDA will work on safety guidelines for drug manufacturers who want to import any drugs they sell in foreign countries to the U.S. market. The manufacturer would have to prove to the FDA that the overseas version of the drug is the same as the FDA-approved version, and allow Americans to purchase the same drug for less money.
Ned Sharpless, acting FDA Commissioner said, "The FDA has the resources to do this. The agency is interested in considering any reasonable proposal that maintains the bedrock of safety and efficacy for the American consumer."
"For the first time in HHS's history, we are open to importation," Secretary Azar said on a call with reporters. "What we're saying today is we're open. There is a pathway. We can be convinced."
As you would expect, the pharmaceutical industry, a powerful force in Washington, DC, opposes the plan. "We haven't spoken about this plan with the pharmaceutical industry," Azar said.
Azar said complex regulations setting up the system could take "weeks and months." He called on Congress to pass legislation that would lend its muscle to the effort, making it harder to overturn the policy in court [from drugmaker lawsuits].
Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network