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article imageCanadian officials surprised over U.S. medicine imports

By Tim Sandle     Aug 2, 2019 in Health
The U.S. government plans to allow its citizens to legally import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada. The problem is, they neglected to tell Canadian officials about the scheme.
Prescription drugs cost more in the U.S. than in almost anywhere else in the world. As a consequence, many in the U.S. are illegally importing drugs from other countries. A popular place to obtain medicines from is Canada. Such is the extent of the practice that a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that around five million U.S. citizens bought their prescription medications from other countries to save money, in breach of federal restrictions. The five million may well be an underestimation, with other analysts putting the figure at closer to 19 million.
Global spending on pharmaceutical and healthcare products is huge. Back in 2010, total spending on medicine was $887 billion. In 2018 this rose to $1.2 trillion. By 2023, the pharmaceutical market is anticipated to increase to over $1.5 trillion.
Perhaps in recognition that the practice of importing lower-cost drugs was so widespread that it cannot be enforced, U.S. officials have drawn up plans to permit U.S. patients and consumers to purchase prescription medicines from Canada. While U.S. healthcare market inefficiencies and profit-based medicine have led to high prices of drugs, Canada's system of publicly funded healthcare leads to greater efficiencies and leads to medicines being on the market that are relatively more affordable.
This may seem like a sensible plan to challenge the exorbitant prices charged by pharmaceutical companies active in the U.S. However, it appears U.S. officials neglected to inform Canadian officials about the plans.
Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor indicates there had been “mutual interest” discussions with the U.S. about mechanisms that could help to foster lower drug prices for people in the U.S. But details of the announcement by the U.S. Health and Human Services department were not discussed beforehand.
The move is not supported by John Adams of Canada's Best Medicines Coalition. He adds his voice to those who fear there will be a drain on vital medicines for the Canadian population. He is calling on the Canadian parliament to be recalled to discuss the mater. The fear is that hospitals and community pharmacies are only resourced to serve the Canadian public and they are not equipped to support the U.S., which has a population some ten times larger (36 million to 327 million). Adams is concerned over access to medicines should this proposal by the U.S. go through.
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