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Analysis

President Trump Promises Drug Importation Plan Soon

By Jack O'Brien  
   November 25, 2019

The president tweeted that he and HHS Secretary Alex Azar will release a plan to allow states to import prescription drugs.

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday afternoon that he and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar will soon release a plan to allow states to import prescription drugs.

"Hard-working Americans don't deserve to pay such high prices for the drugs they need. We are fighting DAILY to make sure this HAPPENS..." he tweeted.

In later tweets, Trump criticized the drug pricing plan released by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling on Democrats to "get serious about bipartisan solutions" related to lowering prescription drug prices.

Prescription drug importation remains a divisive issue as states look at implementing drug importation policies while leaders on the federal level consider the potential impact of such legislation. 

In May 2018, Vermont became the first state to allow wholesale drug importation from Canada. The decision came days after Azar called the idea of lowering drug prices by importing from Canada "just a gimmick," citing the small size of Canada's prescription drug market compared to the U.S.  

In July 2018, Azar directed the Food & Drug Administration to establish a working group to analyze a potential plan to permit drug importation. However, it would only apply to the circumstance when there's a dramatic increase in the price of a prescription drug by a manufacturer without patent protection.

Related: Azar: Drug Importation May Not Be a Gimmick After All

Despite federal opposition, some Republicans on Capitol Hill have voiced their support for drug importation plans, most notably Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. In June, he introduced a bipartisan bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to provide Americans with access to prescription drugs approved by pharmacies in Canada.

"It’s long past time for Congress to help the millions of Americans who struggle to pay exorbitant prices for medication. Our bill would do exactly that," Grassley said in a press release.

Trump's promise of a drug importation plan comes six months after he asked Azar to work with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to work on drug importation plan.

The Florida Legislature approved a bill earlier this year that would permit the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, supported in large part by DeSantis, a Trump ally. 

In July, Azar outlined the potential benefits of the Trump administration introducing prescription drug importation. The plan would either allow states to introduce their own importation plans for federal approval or allow drugmakers to import their own prescription drugs.

"[President Trump] is always pushing me, challenging me to find more solutions for patients," Azar said on a press call discussing the plan.

Related: Trump Has Blessed States' Exploration Of Importing Drugs. Will It Catch On?

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 13, 2017 : The President of United States of America Donald Trump at the Elysee Palace for an extended interview with the french President. - Image / Editorial credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com


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