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Trump administration takes steps to allow cheaper drug imports from Canada

Published on 18/12/19 at 03:04pm

The Trump administration is close to allowing the import of some prescription Canadian drugs into the country.

The FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will introduce a notice of proposed rulemaking. This is how the administration will ask states to lay out how they would work with pharmacies and other parties to bring in drugs from Canada.

The FDA will seek a request for comment on two possible ways states could act.

One would see states submit proposals to the FDA to allow the importation of small molecule brand-name medicines to be sold at retail pharmacies. The other would let manufacturers import the same versions of FDA approved drugs they now sell in foreign countries.

Under this pathway, drugmakers would use a new National Drug Code (NDC) and sell these drugs in the United States at cheaper prices. Together the plans aim to increase access, lower drug costs and stimulate competition.

These steps do not mean all drugs will qualify. Insulin is one of the more high profile examples. Pharmaceutical companies that manufacturer this drug have come under harsh criticism for its pricing, including by Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday.

Alex Azar, Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said: “For the first time in history, the HHS and FDA are open to importation as means for lower prices.”

The American and Canadian pharmaceutical lobbies are both firmly against this move by the Trump administration.

Conor Kavanagh

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