Don’t import prescription drugs

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Prescription drug pricing has been the subject of much debate over the last year.

Several states are looking at importing drugs from Canada as an answer to high prescription costs. In fact, the Florida legislature recently approved a plan to import drugs from Canada where prices are lower, rather than purchasing them domestically. Importation programs like the ones proposed in Florida are neither safe nor effective ways to lower the price of medications.

Importation is a dangerous gamble. Neither the safety nor efficacy of imported medications can be ensured, placing every patient who takes these medications at risk. There is no way to verify these medications originated in Canada, and Canadian authorities have made it clear they will not be responsible for the safety of drugs being shipped from their country.

Often, these drugs come from what appears to be a legitimate source, but testing has shown that many are counterfeit, manufactured in unsafe conditions and contain little, if any, active pharmaceutical ingredients.

In fact, a 2017 report from the World Health Organization showed about 1 in 10 medications from developing countries were fake or substandard.

Under the current law, the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services would have to certify that the importation program does not put consumer health and safety at more risk than if the program didn’t exist. No secretary of either political party has ever been able to do so.

In fact, Secretary Alex Azar said, “the last four FDA commissioners have said there is no effective way to ensure drugs coming from Canada really are coming from Canada rather than being routed from say a counterfeit factory in China.”

The safety of prescription drugs relies on a closed system where drugs can be traced to manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and patients. Opening that system to foreign drugs would allow the potential for dangerous and potentially deadly medicines to land in the hands of the American public.

Brooklyn Roberts is the director of the health and human services task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council; she previously served as campaign manager for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s re-election campaign. She holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama. This piece originally ran in The Hill.