Sanders pledges to allow prescription drug imports on first day in office

Sanders pledges to allow prescription drug imports on first day in office
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Wasserman Schultz makes bid for House Appropriations Committee gavel Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (I-Vt.) on Thursday pledged to allow the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada on his first day in office.

The Democratic presidential candidate's pledge comes one day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE made a more incremental move toward allowing some drug importation. 

The statement from Sanders, who has long made lowering drug prices a top priority, shows his efforts to highlight how far he would go on the issue. 

“There is no rational reason why insulin and other life-saving medications should cost ten times more in the United States than Canada,” Sanders said in a statement. 

"On day one of my administration, I will direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and FDA Commissioner to allow pharmacists, wholesalers and patients to purchase FDA approved prescription drugs from Canada,” he added. 

Sanders’s move would be more far-reaching than Trump’s announcement this week. The Trump administration announced a plan to begin the process of writing rules to eventually allow pilot programs for importing drugs from Canada, the first time the federal government has said it is open to the idea. 

There are still several more steps in the Trump administration’s process before importation of cheaper drugs would actually begin, though. 

The announcements highlight how lowering drug prices has become a top issue for Trump and his potential 2020 opponents, who are looking to show they are stronger on the issue than the president. 

Sanders also announced another far-reaching plan: to use existing authority for the federal government to break drug companies’ patents on a drug and allow cheaper versions to be sold if the drug is not available on “reasonable terms.”

That authority, known as “march-in rights,” has never been used before and is viewed as a drastic step, but Sanders pledged to use it.  

“The greed and corruption of the pharmaceutical industry is killing Americans,” Sanders said. “When I am President, starting on my first day in office, that greed and corruption will come to an end.”