As some states continue to consider various ways to address rising health care costs, Florida is the latest state to seek authorization from its legislature to import prescription drugs from Canada. As is the case with similar proposals in other states, this unproven drug importation proposal would risk eroding the public health standards U.S. prescription drugs are held to—and could expose Americans to lower quality drugs to the detriment of their health. To elected leaders, such a proposal may seem like a simple solution, but—however well intentioned—this opinion comes without a full understanding of the value of innovation led by pharmaceutical manufacturers in America and the required federal role in this proposal.
Florida’s HB 19 carries a false promise to lower drug prices by allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. There is no question that skyrocketing health care costs are disrupting families and businesses around the country. However, allowing imported drugs from Canada is not a solution. Canada does not have the same standards or long-established mechanisms in place to protect patients as we do here in the United States. Furthermore, elected leaders should not ignore the bill’s need for federal approval and its needless risk to public health. To date, no Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been willing to make a certification to permit drug importation from foreign countries due to concerns about public health—and rightly so.
Manufacturers support efforts to increase access to affordable medicine, but it cannot be at the expense of safety or quality. Canada does not make product safety guarantees to the U.S., so importation and re-importation could expose consumers to counterfeit and adulterated therapies. High prescription drug costs should be addressed—but not at the expense of eroding the reputation of quality drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the United States. Adequate drug consistency and quality cannot be assured with imported medicine—nor can the health and wellness of people seeking treatment through foreign prescription medicine that may be counterfeit or adulterated. The National Association of Manufacturers has long opposed the importation of prescription drugs, and we will continue advocating for patient safety to remain the driving factor in determining prescription drug laws. Americans count on national safeguards guaranteeing the quality of prescription drugs for their health and wellbeing. There cannot be doubt or uncertainty.