The Trump administration has outlined a plan to enable Americans to access lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada more easily, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced on Wednesday morning.
Azar, a former drug industry executive, said in his announcement that under the plan, American patients will be able to access these drugs safely and effectively, a development that comes after years of opposition by health authorities to allow the import of life-sustaining medications which are often unaffordable in the U.S.
“President Trump has been clear: for too long American patients have been paying exorbitantly high prices for prescription drugs that are made available to other countries at lower prices,” the HHS secretary said in a statement.
The move will also fulfil a campaign promise by President Donald Trump by weakening an import ban that prevented U.S. patients from obtaining these medications. The plan will now almost certainly face legal challenges from drugmakers, before consumers can feel its benefits, so the timeline for the plan’s implementation remains unclear.
It is also not clear how Canada will react to the move which can have consequences for lawmakers and consumers there, the AP writes. Furthermore, states, pharmacies and distributors have to present to the FDA a plan that follows federal safety guidelines.
The prescription drugs’ importation will be overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, said Azar, who also added that the plan would “reduce out of pocket costs for American patients.”
The administration’s move comes at a time when the American drug industry is facing a torrent of complaints over high prices and bipartisan pressure from congressional members to limit costs.
The plan immediately drew criticism from the pharmaceutical industry. Stephen Ubl, president of the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said there was no guarantee that medications coming from other countries are safe, calling it “far too dangerous” for U.S. consumers.
A number of experts fear that Canada does not possess the capacity to meet U.S. demands, considering the American market is significantly larger.