The Prescription Justice coalition letter from last month, signed by a growing number of consumer, health and social justice organizations, supports S. 469/H.R. 1245, The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT and Representative Elijah Cummings, D-MD. If enacted, this bill would allow individuals, pharmacies and wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from Canada, and then, after two years, from other countries with equally rigorous systems for regulating the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals.
Prescription Justice also supports S. 64 /H.R. 1480, The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2017, introduced by Senator John McCain, R-AZ and Representative Chellie Pingree, D-ME. This bill wouldallow for the personal importation of safe and affordable drugs from approved pharmacies in Canada. Prescription medications imported under this bill would be the same dosage, form, and potency as drugs in the U.S., but at a significant savings to Americans.
Recently, The Hill featured the Op-Ed, A tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis, by Gabriel Levitt, President of Prescription Justice. Mr. Levitt’s Op-Ed provides an insightful look at legislation targeting two distinct public health problems, but only one has the capacity to inflict further devastation from the public health crisis that is high drug prices.
The Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act of 2017 (STOP Act), introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R- OH) aims to stop the flow of the highly addictive synthetic opioid fentanyl from coming into the U.S. by requiring the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to obtain information about packages coming from foreign sources. Unlike private carriers such as UPS and FedEx, the USPS does not currently require advanced electronic customs data from much of the mail received at its International Mail centers.
The Brussels Principles underscore the importance of the international online marketplace as a lifeline of affordable medication for the millions of people forced to go without necessary treatment due to drug cost and availability.
On March 31st, 2017, Prescription Justice organized a panel for the RightsCon 2017 conference in Brussels, which addressed protecting online access to safe and affordable medication. The organizers of RightsCon just published their outcomes document in which Prescription Justice’s effort to bring together both medicines access and Internet freedom advocates was recognized.
At that conference, the participants discussed a set of draft principles pertaining to medication sales over the Internet and prescription drug importation. The prevailing position among the panelists was that initiatives funded by the pharmaceutical industry that affect access to medicines on the Internet were detrimental to the cause of prescription drug affordability.
Prescription Justice is proud to announce that we have sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, signed by non-profit organizations dedicated to American consumers, patients and families who struggle with the high cost of medication. The letter specifically calls for the passage of the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2017, introduced by Senators Cory Booker, Bob Casey, and Bernie Sanders. The Act would expressly allow importation of lower cost medications from Canada, and, after two years, other countries with strong pharmaceutical regulations. Uniquely, the letter also recognizes that Americans already import medication for personal use, often ordering them from international online pharmacies, regardless of the federal restrictions. That practice can be safe but rogue websites are a threat to patient safety.
The Act would require the FDA to register qualified international pharmacies and identify websites that sell FDA-approved medications directly to consumers from licensed pharmacies; create registration requirements with multiple layers of oversight to permit U.S. pharmacies to import wholesale quantities that could be sold at much lower price; and increase penalties for online pharmacies that knowingly sell counterfeit drugs.
Passing drug importation legislation is just one important step in the right direction to bring an end to the crisis of high drug prices in America.
While the intense focus in Congress last week was the passage of the American Healthcare Act, millions of Americans continue to struggle with the cost of prescription medications. In 2016, 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription because of cost, and a recent poll commissioned by Prescription Justice shows that 75% Americans agree with President Trump that they drug companies are getting away with murder.
Not just individual patients but federal and state governments face an uphill budget battle as well. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veteran's Affairs continue to grapple with dramatic price increases that are crippling their budgets.
Congress has introduced several bills in 2017 to address the crisis of high drug prices. Here’s a summary:
Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (HR 1776/S. 771)
On March 29, S. 771, The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (Act), was introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and fifteen Democratic co-sponsors. A companion bill (HR 1776) was also introduced in the House by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) with four Democratic co-sponsors.