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A controversial bill to allow Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada would save the federal government more than $6.8 billion over the next 10 years, according to a preliminary estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

The initial findings may further debate over whether importing medicines from Canada and certain other countries can be safely done. The pharmaceutical industry and former Food and Drug Administration commissioners, among others, argue this would expose Americans to counterfeits.

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  • In the past companies limited stock to provinces to counter sales to US. Would this happen again?

    • Hi Justice,

      Nice to hear from you. The bill attempts to address that point, but as a practical matter, not sure if it can be resolved. But I imagine a company would look at such a tactic, yes.

      all best,
      ed at pharmalot

  • Ed – The CBO reports says nothing about whether any purported savings would be shared with “the average American.” In fact, CBO says nothing at all about its methodology. The U.S. has a safe, controlled, and closed distribution system. Risking the safety of this system for 0.1% seems insane. Why aren’t Democrats talking about any savings from the other 85%+ of healthcare costs? This is about populist politics, not sound policy.

    • Hi Adam,

      You’re correct. The CBO does not say savings would go anywhere except to lower the federal deficit. What I meant is this may create the impression that importation could more broadly save money and, therefore, appeal to voters.

      And I agree that it is about populist politics, especially since the Republicans are not offering alternatives. I also agree the bill raises several challenges, but in the absence of other fixes, it has some appeal.

      To some, it’s a bit like Prohibition in that some number of people are already buying drugs from foreign outlets so perhaps making it legal is worth exploring.


    • Hi Adam – Millions of Americans already save money buying medication internationally: If the CBO estimates simply reflect the lower deficit effects (savings of almost $7 billion) then the savings are potentially much higher than estimated since more “average Americans” will individually save.

      Also, it seems that Democrats have been focused on healthcare costs in terms of making sure millions do not lose their health insurance, or did I miss something? I agree that it’s important to lower healthcare costs throughout the system not just drug costs.


  • $6.8 billion over 10 years will be about 0.1% of total net drug spending over that period. Is that worth the risk of opening up the closed U.S. supply chain?

    • Hi Adam,

      Fair point. I suspect the impact, if any, of this CBO estimate is that may reinforce the idea that there are savings to be had, at least among the average American.

      And if so, this strengthens plays well for Democrats trying to appeal to Americans who feel Congress and the White House, all controlled by Republicans, aren’t doing anything about high drug costs.

      So in real dollars, it may not register, but it might create an impression among some voters that importation remains worth discussing, if not pursuing.

      We shall see,

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