publication date: Dec. 20, 2019

In Brief

HHS proposes plan to import cheaper drugs from Canada

HHS Dec. 18 announced a plan to allow states, drug wholesalers and pharmacies to import cheaper drugs from Canada.

It’s unclear when the plan would take effect. If implemented, this would be the first time the U.S. imports drugs from another country specifically to lower costs. The plan is expected to face opposition from pharmaceutical companies and the Canadian government, The Washington Post reported Dec. 18.

“For the first time in history, HHS and FDA are open to importation as a means to lower drug prices,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said on a call with reporters. “No president in history has had an FDA willing to open the door to safe importation of drugs from Canada.”

Canada has a population of 37 million. By comparison, the U.S. has a population of 327 million. The Canadian government has previously pushed back on drug importation proposals because of concerns over drug shortages.

Drug pricing legislation was not included in the latest set of spending bills passed by Congress.

Earlier this fall, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) introduced a drug pricing bill this fall that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices of the 250 most expensive drugs each year. House Democrats passed Pelosi’s proposal Dec. 12.

Azar said he couldn’t predict savings from the plan. Logistical questions remain about whether the proposal would hold up to legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies. The Trump administration is “moving as quickly as we possibly can,” Azar said.


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