Should Americans be able to buy cheaper drugs from Canada?

January 21, 2015

At least two U.S. Senators believe so and have once again introduced legislation that would allow Americans to import medicines from Canada.

At least two U.S. Senators believe so and have once again introduced legislation that would allow Americans to import medicines from Canada.

For the second straight year, The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John McCain (R-Az.) The bill would allow Americans with valid prescriptions from licensed, U.S. physicians to order up to a 90-day supply of medicines from licensed Canadian pharmacies. The drugs shipped from Canadian pharmacies would have to have the same active ingredients, dosage form, and potency as FDA approved drugs.

Related Reading: Maine pharmacists sue to block importation of foreign drugs

“The cheaper alternatives [in Canada] come with the same safety standards and are the same dosages sold in the U.S., but currently [the] law prevents Americans from importing them and benefiting from the savings,” Klobuchar told the Wall Street Journal. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

Maine is the only state that allows residents to buy drugs from pharmacies outside the United States [Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom]. Groups opposing the Maine law include the Maine Pharmacy Association, the Retail Association of Maine, the Maine Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Those groups contend that the Maine law circumvents federal law and opens the door for counterfeit products.

But other states are likely to consider drug importation as the price of medicines, including generics, continue to soar. Last year, two members of Congress launched an investigation into “soaring” price increases for generic drugs used for common medical conditions as well as life-threatening ones.

The senate legislation seeks to derail the safety issue by mandating the imported drugs be identical to FDA-approved ones. It also stipulates that the Canadian pharmacies could not resell drugs from online pharmacies outside Canada and that only pharmacies that have existed for at least five years could be used.