States explore importing drugs

by jerry on July 06, 2019
Kaiser Health News reported on three states formulating plans to import medications from Canada. Prior legislation (the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act) allows importation of drugs from Canada, but appears to require verification by the secretary of Health and Human Services. Understandably, the previous secretaries have opposed importation (large downside risk to the officials involved in case something goes wrong, and probably limited upside for the officials if everything goes well). Thus, the support offered by the current president seems significant. It remains to be seen if anything will come of these plans, and whether perhaps a national plan will come into play.

It is ironic that Americans end up paying more for medications that, in many cases, they helped fund the initial research, but it is understandable that pharmaceutical companies want to maximize their profits. Allowing importation of medications from other countries might have the intended effect of lowering drug prices nationally, but might also have the unintended effect of raising prices internationally.