The recent proposal, from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and such Democrats as Cory Booker from New Jersey and Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, drops that requirement. Instead, it sets up a regulatory system where Canadian pharmacies who purchase their supply from manufacturers inspected by the Food and Drug Administration would be licensed to sell to customers across the border. The bill allows not only individuals but drug wholesalers and pharmacies to buy from Canada.
After two years, HHS could allow importation from other countries that meet standards comparable to those of the U.S.
(Another bill in Congress, proposed in January by John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) focuses solely on allowing individuals to purchase from such pharmacies.)
Trump has promised that "pricing for the American people will come way down." Last week, he had a high-profile meeting at the White House with Elijah Cummings, Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and the head of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Redonda Miller, to discuss allowing Medicare to negotiate prices on outpatient medicines. Cummings told reporters later that Trump said he supports Medicare price negotiation as well as the Sanders bill.
PhRMA, the drug industry's trade group, has denounced Sanders' proposal as it has others that enabled imports in the past.
"The bill lacks sufficient safety controls [and] would exacerbate threats to public health from counterfeit, adulterated or diverted medicines, and increase the burden on law enforcement to prevent unregulated medicines and other dangerous products from harming consumers," said PhRMA spokeswoman Nicole Longo.
Surveys indicate that up to 8 percent of Americans have bought medicines outside the U.S. even though the practice is technically illegal and imported pills are subject to confiscation.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.