The Alliance

New Importation Proposal Presents False Promises, Risks to Consumer Safety

December 18, 2019 10:10 am

“Drug importation is not our silver bullet, but an ineffective political ploy”


Washington, DC—The Alliance to Protect Medical Innovation’s Executive Director Patrick O’Connor released the following statement on the Trump administration’s new proposal to allow importation of prescriptions drugs into the United States:


“This proposal to allow drug importation exposes American patients to unnecessary risk without lowering out-of-pocket costs in a meaningful way. HHS Secretary Alex Azar previously derided this as a ‘gimmick’ and every FDA and HHS director since 2000 has raised concerns about the safety of similar proposals. Drug importation is not our silver bullet, but rather an ineffective political ploy that fails to lower prices, endangers consumer safety, and threatens continued medical innovation.”


One of the countries many people hope to import prescription drugs from is Canada, which is clearly opposed to the idea. As the Alliance highlighted in a July blog post, Canada’s “foreign ministry believes importation measures could exacerbate the already short supply of drugs in Canada and could drive up prices there.”


Another worrisome factor that politicians are choosing to overlook is the risk to consumer safety. There is ample evidence from anti-counterfeiting investigations questioning whether Canada is up to the task, including a 2018 operation that found 87 percent of nearly 3,600 packages inspected by Canadian officials contained counterfeit or unlicensed health products. A separate operation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found 85 percent of “Canadian” drugs the agency surveyed actually originated in 27 different countries.


Lastly, other countries do not regulate prescription drugs the same way the United States does. STAT News’ Katherine Eban and Sony Salzman dug through FDA records and concluded that data falsification is an enormous problem at foreign drug manufacturing plants, especially in China and India, and is “happening with greater frequency than in U.S. plants.” Part of the reason is because inspections abroad are not random and unannounced, like they are in the United States.


Instead of providing airtime to a proposal that’s destined to fail, we hope that policymakers focus in the new year on the true drivers of patients’ health-care costs.


The Alliance to Protect Medical Innovation is a nonpartisan group committed to fostering a national conversation on medical innovation and patient access to care that is holistic and fact-based. The Alliance evaluates policy proposals and fact-checks claims affecting biomedical innovation, as well as responds to attacks on this innovation ecosystem. We are working to preserve the pipeline of breakthrough medicines that reduce costs within the health care system and help people live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. The Alliance receives funding from biopharmaceutical companies and other entities that represent the industry.