Drug importation won’t keep Big Pharma in check
This week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow Americans to access lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada at some point in the future. Although importing cheaper drugs is a step in the right direction, it does nothing to solve the crisis that millions of Americans struggling to afford the prescription medicine are facing right now.
Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Nearly 1 in 4 are skipping doses or going without the medicines their doctors have prescribed because prices are just too high. As families make impossible choices about whether to fill a prescription or pay the bills, pharmaceutical corporations are raking in record profits.
Instead of looking to other countries to remedy our prescription price problem, President Trump should be taking action to solve the problem at home. We need legislation that stops drug corporations from jacking up prices in order to boost their profits at the expense of our health.
Trump’s drug importation proposal is not a real solution: It’s a workaround that avoids taking on Big Pharma and fundamentally overhauling a system that drug companies have rigged. All these corporations care about is taking more money from people who need the life-saving medicines that only they can provide.
No matter what the president says, it doesn’t take much digging to show where his true allegiance lies: with the same pharmaceutical companies that are driving Americans to the financial brink and putting countless lives in peril.
Instead of holding the drug corporations accountable, Trump has rewarded them with huge tax breaks. Under the GOP tax bill, four of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies enjoyed $7 billion in tax savings while the average cost of prescription medicines continues to skyrocket.
Making matters worse, Trump has negotiated a NAFTA 2.0 deal that includes Big Pharma giveaways. Instead of protecting everyday Americans, the deal locks in higher drug prices for some of the nation’s top health concerns — including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart failure and cancer.
Trump’s drug importation proposal neglects to include many of the most urgently needed medications. Former Big Pharma employee and current Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has noted that insulin will not be included, meaning that Americans being treated for diabetes will still face sky-high prices. Other commonly prescribed medications will continue to be sold at massively inflated prices — all because big pharmaceutical companies are more focused on boosting profits than meeting America’s health needs.
Even more worrying, there’s no telling when Trump’s plan would go into effect. His announcement sets the stage for a process to implement a new rule. The policy itself may not be implemented for years, meaning that drug prices will stay high for the foreseeable future.
People who need life-saving drugs need them now. They can’t afford to wait several months or potentially years and years for Trump’s proposal to take effect. Even then, Trump’s drug importation plan won’t force pharmaceutical corporations to lower prices — it’s not a solution.
Lower prices across our northern border clearly won’t be enough to solve the crisis here at home, where the population is ten times as large and drug companies have allies at the highest levels of government.
Instead of big promises, Americans need real policy solutions that take on drug companies and force them to put people ahead of profits. The price of inaction is much too high.
Margarida Jorge is the executive director of Health Care for America Now.