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  • Companies are unlikely to embrace the new cost-effective initiative.

    Companies are unlikely to embrace the new cost-effective initiative. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 July 2019

It is the government's first step to truly bring affordable medication to the public.

U.S. citizens will have the option to safely and legally import Canadian prescription drugs for a lower cost, the Donald Trump administration ruled Wednesday despite push back from manufacturers in the country.

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This is the government's first step to pushing for affordable medication for the public. Drugmakers will be able to offer citizens drugs typically sold more cheaply in foreign countries into the U.S., an option companies are unlikely to embrace.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it and the Food and Drug Administration will propose a rule that will allow the government to authorize states and other groups to implement pilot programs to import drugs from Canada.

Canada will soon be publishing a final draft of the new regulations, the Trudeau administration said this week, although both Ontario and Quebec have voiced some concerns, noting that the legal amendments may put the welfare of life science investments at risk.

The importation idea still needs to be proposed and then finalized by the U.S. Health and Human Services. The largest U.S. pharmaceutical and biotech companies said they oppose the move via their lobby firms, PhRMA and BIO.

“There is no way to guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the country,” said PhRMA Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ubl.

However, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said he has had prior discussions with Canada about importation and that it would be up to individual states, pharmacies and distributors, who are all expected to pursue the importation through trial models.

“There are hurdles of course, but the hurdles now are known. They are being laid out and they are surmountable,” Azar told reporters on a conference call.

The Canadian health minister’s office said in a statement that it will work to understand the implications for Canadians and to ensure it does not negatively affect supply or cost.

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