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article imageU.S. states look to importing prescription drugs from Canada

By Karen Graham     Feb 18, 2018 in Health
Lawmakers in over two-thirds of the country's states have been considering ways to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, including importing them from Canada. This idea is taking on greater significance in light of Trump's failure to act on prices.
At the end of January, Digital Journal reported President Trump had vowed again to bring down prescription drug prices in the United States, an issue on which his administration has been accused of dragging its feet.
And at the time, it didn't sit well with many people after Trump named a former pharmaceutical executive, Alex Azar, to be the secretary of health and human services. However, we must remember the federal government does not control drug prices, which are set by drug companies and are subject to costs and competition.
However, in Trump's State of the Union address this year, he promised, again, to bring drug prices down: "That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities," Trump said. "Prices will come down."
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals/ Sellerstraße/Berlin-Wedding in Berlin-Mitte  Berlin (Germany)
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals/ Sellerstraße/Berlin-Wedding in Berlin-Mitte, Berlin (Germany)
Miriam Guterland
Pharmaceutical industry has close ties to government
However, pharmaceutical companies in the United States have their fingers on the pulse of lawmakers on up to the president when it comes to the price of prescription drugs. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the pharmaceutical and health products industry - it includes not only drug manufacturers but also dealers of medical products and nutritional and dietary supplements - is consistently near the top when it comes to federal campaign contributions.
Since about 2003, the industry's political generosity have averaged about $30 million every election cycle, and traditionally, the industry has favored Republicans. There have only been two exceptions, 2008 and 2010.
Then there are the lobbyists, - hundreds of them representing just about any interest group you can think of, and the pharmaceutical industry is just one of many. These people have one mission - lobbying on a general issue or specific piece of legislation, and in this case, it is the pharmaceutical industry..
Open Secrets .Org
According to the Senate Office of Public Records, last updated on January 24, 2018, the Pharmaceuticals/Health Products lobby spent $277,784,999 in 2017, using 1,480 lobbyists representing 385 clients.
Looking at cheaper medications in Canada
So with a strong lobby in Washington and little or no action from the Trump administration on bringing down drug prices in the U.S., Canada's Global News is reporting that a number of states are considering importing prescription drugs from Canada, as they strive to balance budgets without knowing for sure what their government’s share of the tab will be.
According to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy, a total of 87 bills in 34 states all look to save money on prescription medications. Six states are considering bills that would allow drugs to be imported from Canada, where they cost an average 30 percent less than in the U.S.
The use of an electronic medical prescription service.
The use of an electronic medical prescription service.
MC4 Army
The political lines are not evident in the case for finding cheaper prices for medications. Take liberal Vermont, where lawmakers have revived a nearly 20-year-old proposal. Then, there is Republican-led Utah. Utah State Representative Norm Thurston wants the state to "flex its muscles" to get the government to do something.
As for the ever-climbing price of drugs, Thurston said, "This is something that a red state like Utah could do. Those outrageous cost increases are not the result of the free market."
Thurston's plan is simple: Allow the state to contract with wholesalers in Canada, importing cheaper prescriptions from up north and distributing them to the state’s health care system. And it is catching on with other states, including West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Maryland.
And as for the question of safety in buying drugs from Canada, proponents of the idea point out the pharmaceutical products sold in Canada are often made by the same companies making the same medications sold in the U.S. - So where's the problem?
More about Prescription drugs, drugimport legislation, Canada, six states, bipartisan support