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Canadians worried by plan to let Americans import drugs

August 1, 2019

OTTAWA (AP) — A Trump administration plan to let Americans legally import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada is causing concern among Canadians who that fear it could cause shortages of some medications — as well as surprise by officials who say they weren’t consulted about a possible influx of U.S. drug-buyers.

The plan is a “clear and present danger” to the health and well-being of Canadians who need prescription medications, said John Adams, the volunteer chairman of the Best Medicines Coalition, a non-profit organization representing 28 national patient organizations.

Adams told The Canadian Press the existing supply of drugs in Canada is not always sufficient to meet the current needs of Canadians, let alone a sudden surge in demand from south of the border.

Diabetes Canada is one of more than a dozen organizations that signed a letter urging the Canadian government to safeguard the country’s drug supply.

“It’s clear to us that whatever measures need to be put in place to prevent, for example, large-scale importation by online pharmacies or large-scale importation by large U.S. states, has to be put in place because Canada is not structured to produce an amount of medications required for a population that size,” Kimberley Hanson, executive director of Diabetes Canada, told the CBC.

The Trump administration’s announcement also came as a surprise to Canadian health officials.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s office said while U.S. and Canadian officials have “mutual interest” in fostering lower drug prices, details of Wednesday’s announcement by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar were not discussed beforehand.

“While we’re aware of ongoing state-led initiatives to import Canadian drugs, we weren’t consulted on specifics,” the office said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Thursday that Health Canada will ensure there is a “steady and solid supply” of medications for Canadians regardless of external or international pressures.

The Trump administration said Wednesday it will create a way for Americans to legally import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada for the first time, reversing years of refusals by health authorities at a time of public outcry over high prices for life-sustaining medications.

The plan still has to go through time-consuming regulatory approval and could face court challenges from drugmakers.

“The landscape and the opportunities for safe linkage between drug supply chains has changed,” Azar said. “That is part of why, for the first time in HHS’s history, we are open to importation. We want to see proposals from states, distributors, and pharmacies that can help accomplish our shared goal of safe prescription drugs at lower prices.”

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