WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2018) — More than 50 health professionals, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, signed a letter to President Donald Trump, members of Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging them to expressly permit personal prescription importation. The letter also demands that the FDA halt any actions that would impede access to safe and affordable medications from licensed pharmacies in other countries. Millions of Americans already import medications at significantly reduced prices, despite federal restrictions. Many do so because it is their only lifeline to affordable medication.
The letter, organized by Prescription Justice, was a response to FDA’s action in Florida in September of 2017 against offices that help people, mostly older Americans, purchase lower cost medication from Canada and other countries. FDA agents with search warrants notified the owners that importing drugs is illegal and those who help “administer” such drugs could face fines or jail time, as reported by Kaiser Health News. According to its owners, the offices do not dispense or administer medication at all.
The healthcare providers, concerned with the possibility of an FDA crackdown, stated: “Causing our patients to go without their needed medication is unacceptable and dangerous to their overall health and well-being.”
In some instances, the FDA has seized medication imports. These seizures, combined with the recent FDA action against the offices in Florida, prompted Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to send a letter to the FDA inquiring if it has changed its non-enforcement policy on personal drug importation. Letters were also sent by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
Jodi Dart, executive director of Prescription Justice stated: “We applaud these senators for acting to protect patient access to affordable medications through safe personal drug importation.”
According to the healthcare providers, “Without these lower prices, many patients place their health at risk by rationing, or entirely skipping their medication.” In 2016, 45 million Americans did not fill their prescription due to cost. Roughly one quarter of Americans are forced to choose between the medication they need and a necessity like food or housing costs.
The FDA, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recognizes that not taking medications as prescribed has dire consequences, resulting in 125,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. While not all are the result of drug costs, drug costs are the leading cause of prescription nonadherence, which leads to further sickness, hospitalizations and death.
Current law gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to permit personal drug importation as long as the imported medicine “does not appear to present an unreasonable risk to the individual.” Peer-reviewed research shows that medication sold in Canada and many other countries is just as safe as in the U.S. and results in considerable cost savings to Americans.
Prescription Justice is a non-profit organization that brings together doctors, lawyers, public health advocates, and companies dedicated to ending the prescription drug price crisis. Prescription Justice advocates for legislative and policy reforms to permit Medicare to negotiate drug prices, ending “pay- to-delay” activities by pharmaceutical companies that prevent lower cost generics from coming to market, legalizing importation of lower cost medication, and expressly permitting personal drug importation. More information is at www.prescriptionjustice.org.