It is no secret that Americans pay some of the highest prices for pharmaceutical drugs in the world. And, while the Affordable Care Act will help maybe 50 million uninsured Americans secure health insurance, that law will have no effect on the overall price of medication.
Soaring drug prices are likely the result of a variety of problems, such as inefficiencies in drug manufacturing and the high standard of research applied to each medication sold, but also result from simple price gouging and the tactics of trade groups such as PhRMA – a lobbying organization with an income of over $200 million in 2010.
This new bill, called “Personal Drug Importation Fairness Act of 2013,” proposed in the US House of Representatives and sponsored by Keith Ellison (D-MN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), would allow individuals in the US to import drugs from “Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, South Africa, and countries in the European Union, since these are believed to have safety standards comparable to the US”, reports Ed Silverman of Forbes.
And this isn’t, we should note, a new idea. Already this past year, the state of Maine passed a law allowing its citizens to import drugs from internet pharmacies in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Of course, this law received immediate push-back from PhRMA and other trade groups in lawsuits that alleged such laws circumvent FDA scrutiny and as such (are illegal and) place Americans at risk.
Ignoring the fact that it’s a little insulting to those countries – declaring that their drug safety standards are too low for American bodies, it seems that it might be a little more unhealthy for Americans to be starved of essential medications due to cost prohibition.
All of that is moot anyway, for in response to those allegations concerning the Maine law, the FDA claimed it will only allow the import of medications it has already approved.
Ed Silverman quotes the new bill’s Minnesota sponsor Keith Ellison as stating the bill will “‘allow Americans to spend more time focusing on their health and less time worrying about how they’ll pay for their prescriptions’”.
Of course, whether or not this bill will get off the ground has yet to be seen. I hope it does.