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August 15, 2019

On the eve of the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump unveiled a new part of his “American Patients First” ideology, spurred by the difference in prices Americans pay for certain prescription drugs compared to other countries.

Since then, Congress and the Trump administration have attempted to tackle rising drug prices from multiple angles. In an about-face from the typical Republican stance, the administration began encouraging states to import prescription drugs from Canada as a mechanism to curb costs for consumers.

Historically, drug importation has been met with regulatory challenges, but proponents argue the global prescription landscape has changed, providing a new opportunity for imported drugs to lower costs.

David Shore, SVP, Enterprise Strategy & Risk Management at Borislow Insurance, sat down with The Council’s Katie Oberkircher to talk prescription drug importation and what it means for the healthcare industry:

To date, almost every administrative effort on drug pricing has been blocked in court or been withdrawn thanks to lobbying efforts by the pharmaceutical industry. How likely is it that we see prescription drug importation take shape?

“Numerous private employers and state and municipal government employee plans support voluntary importation programs for personal member use. For example, the city of Springfield, Mass., was an early adopter of an importation program for its plan members – and for good reason, as American consumers continue to grapple with the affordability of their needed medications. While speculation, mischaracterization and fearmongering abound, the medications in question (when the program is set up correctly) exclude generics, opioids, controlled substances, medication for acute care and drugs that require special care in transit. Moreover, the pharmacies meet or exceed the standards set by the FDA and state regulators within the U.S. While it’s regularly accepted that U.S. consumers significantly overpay when compared to their overseas counterparts, of utmost importance is ensuring the safety and efficacy of all drugs in question. I applaud and am encouraged by the Trump administration’s efforts here. That said, powerful stakeholders have a lot to lose if this becomes a mainstream practice and are certain to align to maintain the status quo at the expense of the American consumer. I welcome continuing to shine a very bright light here and remain cautiously optimistic on the future of prescription importation.”