Trump administration weighs allowing drug imports for cheaper prescriptions

The Trump administration on Wednesday reported that it is taking steps to make it easier to import less expensive prescription drugs from other countries, particularly Canada. The proposal would permit pilot programs developed by states, pharmacies, or drug distributors that seek to safely import prescription medications from Canada.

The Trump administration on Wednesday reported that it is taking steps to make it easier to import less expensive prescription drugs from other countries, particularly Canada. The proposal would permit pilot programs developed by states, pharmacies, or drug distributors that seek to safely import prescription medications from Canada. FDA also plans to advise manufacturers on how they can import high-priced drugs like insulin that are sold more cheaply in other countries. The announcement signals a major policy shift: Just a year ago, HHS Secretary Alex Azar described such importation programs as "gimmicks" and no other administration has allowed drug importation. But the HHS plan has significant limitations and is short on details. The proposed rule would not apply to high-priced drugs like insulin or other biologic drugs, because of exceptions included in earlier legislation. And the separate FDA guidance would permit importation of drugs, including insulin, only if the drug makers agreed to take part in the plan. "This is a plan to make a plan on importation," said Rachel Sachs, a law professor and drug policy expert at Washington University in St. Louis. "This is not happening in the next week, in the next month or likely even in the next year because the administration will need to carry out the rule-making process."