A first in a series of posts about common chronic illnesses and what happens when people cannot afford prescription medications to treat them.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease very common in the United States and worldwide. The disease is characterized by a narrowing of the airways in the lungs that is treatable with various medications and avoiding environmental factors that trigger asthma attacks. When patients don’t take prescribed medications to treat their asthma the consequences can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2010 asthma accounted for 3,404 deaths, 439,400 hospitalizations, 1.8 million emergency room visits, and 14.2 million physician office visits. Drug costs are one of the main reasons people are not taking their asthma medications.
About four million Americans import medication for personal use each year because of high drug costs, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Their actions, under most circumstances, are technically illegal, but not something over which the government prosecutes individuals. The law, however, is unjust and unfair and should be reformed so that people who buy medication from a pharmacy in a different country are not, technically, criminally liable. Think about it. The medication you take is 90% cheaper in a different country and you can’t afford it domestically. It’s available for import by mail from a licensed pharmacy that you can access on the Internet. Why should the act of importing it be illegal?
The Personal Drug Importation Fairness Act of 2015 (PDIFA), H.R. 2623, expressly legalizes the importation and Reimportation for personal use of medications. Its passage would make it expressly legal to order a medication online and have it imported for personal use or simply bring it back into the U.S. by car or plane. The bill was introduced by Congressman Keith Ellison in June of 2015, and is cosponsored by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Congresswoman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).