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White House on Cusp of Allowing Prescription Meds from Canada for Import to USA

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It’s a well known fact that large numbers of Americans have been griping about the high costs of their medications over recent years. This US news about ordering drugs from Canada is definitely grabbing headlines all over the place, and that is exactly the news – The Trump administration is considering making it legal to order prescription medications from Canada as a means of increasing affordability and accessibility for US consumers.

One of the things about being a leading Canadian online pharmacy like we are here at Canada Drugs Direct is that we are very attuned to how people can be legitimately concerned about drug prices. Some people have no choice but to take certain medications – their life depends on them – and in some cases they are left without any type of assistance in affording those medications on their own. If you’re a lower-income earner or on a fixed income, this can be extremely problematic and a real source of distress.

No surprise then that these people would have been thrilled to hear the US HHS (Health and Human Services Department) announce today that ‘the administration intends to explore to allow the safe importation of certain prescription drugs to lower prices and reduce out of pocket costs for American patients’ as per Department Secretary Alex Azar.

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What Took So Long?

So the question then becomes – why has the US been so hesitant to make it legal to order drugs from Canada? There’s a number of different reasons for that, and we’ll spend the first part of this blog taking a look at that before we switch over to the other logical inquiry – why are prescription drugs cheaper in Canada?

Nearly every US state has been hampered by the high costs of paying for prescription drugs through the US Medicaid program and State employee plans. Recently Florida, Vermont, Maine, and Colorado approved their own drug import laws. Why did they have to do that on their own?

The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has long stated that it has resisted calls for this type of action based on the belief that allowing drugs imported from Canada would threaten the safety they’re responsible for upholding for American citizens. While there is likely at least some truth to this belief on its own, we can also go ahead and safely assume that the reason Canadian drugs are banned from import into the US is largely because there are strong corporate interests in the pharma industry at play here.

Add those interests to a population somewhere in the vicinity of 335 million people and the workings of it are fairly self-explanatory. So…

Why the Lower Prices Up North?

Ordering drugs online from Canada almost always gets you a better price. Why is that? There are many different reasons, but the biggest one is price capping. This entails putting a ceiling on the prices that drug companies are able to charge. This is especially true for new drugs. Long story short, the new drug’s cost can be no higher than the cost of existing drugs used to treat the same condition. Price capping for prescription drugs in Canada also involves international reference pricing. This means automatic price reductions occur when the price of a drug rises above the median prices for it elsewhere in the world.

Might we see price capping in America? Unlikely given the for-profit nature of the pharma industry and the fact that different levels of government stand to benefit from it too. It’s a fact that the USA is the only developed country without some form of price control for pharmaceutical medications.

The next factor is price competition. In Canada, Provinces (their version of States) and their drug benefits plans promote price competition among similar medications. Drug benefit plans only paying for the lowest-price generic drugs for specific conditions and illnesses goes a long way to regulating the prices of ALL drugs on the market.

Standards of living between the two neighboring countries plays a part too. The average Canadian’s standard of living is 20 to 30% lower than the average American’s. This creates a manifested belief in commerce worlds that American are less sensitive to high prices because of their higher incomes and thus won’t ‘mind’ paying more. (Which of course is entirely untrue, but..)

Legal protection adds to drugs costs in America too, and as we all now America is as litigation-happy a society as exists on the planet. Last but not least, the fact that direct-to-consumer advertising is allowed in America while banned in Canada is a part of why drugs are more expensive in America than Canada. The billions the pharmaceutical industry spend on advertising is 100% incorporated into the product purchase costs transferred to consumers.

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We’ll See

As mentioned, nothing is for certain with this new plan for allowing drugs from Canada possibly coming forward from the White House. It will definitely be an interesting development to follow. Of course, either way Canada Drugs Direct will be as ready and able as ever to accommodate drug orders from Canada made by American customers.

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