The Canadians aren’t too happy with President Trump’s “most favored nation” approach to prescription drugs. Our neighbors to the north are worried that such a program, which includes the idea of importing drugs from Canada, might lead to a shortage of certain pharmaceuticals, or even raise their domestic prices.
At least ten U.S. states, including Florida, have passed or proposed laws to allow such imports, but actual shipments would not be legal without federal approval. The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary said last week the government was looking into ways to import cheaper prescription drugs from overseas.
An April briefing for Canadian officials obtained under freedom of information laws read:
“Canada does not support actions that could adversely affect the supply of prescription drugs in Canada and potentially raise costs of prescription drugs for Canadians.”
The Canadians say they stand ready to take action, but it’s not clear what that action would be, since most of the drugs in question come from American companies.
U.S. drugmakers, keen to protect profits in the United States, their most important market where prices are generally much higher, have also argued against imports, saying they would put the safety of the U.S. drug supply at risk.
They don’t mention the “safety” of thier profits, but that’s implied.
The issue may pose a fresh challenge to Canada’s relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, while disruptions in the drug market would be an unwelcome headache for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, especially ahead of Canada’s October election.
Innovative Medicines Canada, which represents drugmakers including the major U.S. manufacturers, said it is concerned about the import proposals, and raised the issue with Health Canada.
The organization said in a statement:
“Canada cannot supply medicines and vaccines to a market ten times larger than its own population without jeopardizing Canadian supplies and causing shortages.”
That makes sense, but the goal isn’t really to get prescription drugs from Canada, it’s to persuade American drug companies to charge less in the U.S., instead of using us as a profit piggy bank while selling the same things cheaper to other nations.