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WASHINGTON — In his quest to bring down drug prices, President Trump has advocated for policy proposals that the pharmaceutical industry opposes, including importing drugs from Canada. But his new health secretary pick — who, if confirmed, would immediately have the authority to kick-start some importation — has firmly rejected the idea.

Alex Azar spent 10 years defending the pharmaceutical industry and its pricing tactics as he rose through the ranks at the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. Like many in the industry, he reframes questions about drug prices to focus on the importance of generic competition or the power of insurance companies to lower a consumer’s out-of-pocket exposure.


Azar has been perhaps clearest in his views on importation — which supporters say would make already-approved drugs available at cheaper prices.

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  • Hi Erin – I should have introduced myself to you at the discussion with Ed and Dr. Woodcock on Monday! Here’s some food for thought. Azar writes: “These drugs are not American-produced drugs sitting in a Canadian retail pharmacy.” But I assume he knows that most medications sitting in American retail pharmacies are not “American-produced.” It’s a canard that we can’t do importation safely because we already do. We just released some data that showed 70% of popularly prescribed brand name drugs (IMS Health, top 40, 2015) sold in the U.S. are foreign made: Many of those FDA-approved medications are safely sold in other countries at much lower cost.

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