The candidates agree: Legalize personal imports of prescription drugs

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The recent national political conventions would lead one to believe that there is no common ground between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But that’s not the case. Beneath all of the bitter acrimony is an issue on which both of the presidential candidates agree: the legal personal importation of lower cost medications for Americans.

Donald Trump has publicly stated his support for allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas. Hillary Clinton, too, supports permitting safe importation for individuals as a way to counter the rising cost of medications in the U.S. marketplace. The American people strongly agree with the candidates. In fact, 72 percent of Americans support legalizing personal drug importation and the legalization of personal drug importation from Canada is strongly supported by both parties: 76 percent support among Republicans and 69 percent support among Democrats.

{mosads}The reason? Escalating drug prices in this country have moved from a threat to a public health crisis. In 2014, 35 million Americans did not fill a prescription due to cost. According to a survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Kaiser Foundation, more than half of all Americans who do not take prescription medications because of cost report becoming sicker. This means that potentially 17.5 million Americans become sicker each year because they can’t afford their prescription medication.

Consider Debra, a nurse practitioner from Wisconsin, who says she has recently seen price spikes in prescription drugs that have been on the market for 20 years. “This is making it extremely difficult to get our patients to be healed or be compliant as a result. I have had to recommend getting product out of the country just so they can get what is needed to sustain their health,” says Debra. RxRights has collected hundreds of stories from Americans unable to afford the high price of U.S. medicine. Many turn to importation in order to access their medications at lower prices.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about four million Americans import medication for personal use. For those who use international online pharmacies to find the same medications from sources outside of the U.S., they may benefit from a savings that often exceeds 90 percent. While the FDA has never prosecuted anyone for importing drugs for personal use, both candidates recognize that the law is draconian in nature, even subjecting people, technically, to prosecution and jail.

Americans spend more on prescription drugs than any other nation. For many, these include maintenance medications for chronic conditions, such as Januvia for diabetes, Advair Diskus for COPD and Abilify for people battling depression. For others, they need essential and life-saving medications for anything from cancer to heart disease. Congress has been talking a lot about solutions but people need immediate relief. The opportunity to access lower prices through safe and reliable channels is one that must not be hindered by borders or corporate interests.

There are players — like in any industry — that aim to take advantage of consumers through counterfeit and other rogue measures. The Internet, however, provides consumers access to information to ensure the safety and security of online purchases.

For instance, critical guidelines to follow when purchasing medications from online pharmacies are readily available, such as only trust those pharmacies that require a prescription, publish verifiable contact information and protect personal and financial information. While this research takes some effort, companies like provide consumers with independent verifications of online pharmacies.

The bottom line is that consumers deserve a choice when it comes to where to buy their medications and should enjoy the competition and transparency that exists in other industries. If medicine can be found from another country that’s just as safe as what is sold here, it should be a viable option.

It is reassuring — and refreshing — to know that both of the presidential candidates stand with the majority of their parties and on the side of consumer choice and benefit. Under their watch, the FDA should empower consumers with the knowledge they need to make better, timely and more informed decisions about buying medications internationally rather than scare or punish them with outdated laws that stand to erode their health,the health of their families, and their bank accounts.

Tod Cooperman, MD, is President of, founder of, and a noted researcher on consumer healthcare issues. Lee Graczyk is a board member of Prescription Justice Action Group and the founder of, a national coalition dedicated to promoting and protecting consumer access to sources of safe, affordable prescription Drugs.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Canada Donald Trump Food and Drug Administration Hillary Clinton Online pharmacies prescription drug prices prescription drug safety United States
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