Importing drugs a flawed solution to rising costs

by Paul Meyer   

Seattle Post Intelligencer

A deluge of recent news coveragehas very effectively shed light on the deep flaws in prescription drug importation as a solution to higher drug costs.

Savings from Canadian online pharmacies have been shrinking. In many cases, Internet entrepreneurs are forced to buy drugs at higher prices from traditional brick and mortar stores, only to turn around and sell them to U.S. seniors.

But a serious reduction in savings isn't the only problem for pro-importation forces. Their model, the one they rely so heavily on as evidence the policy has potential for success, is nearing total collapse. The Canadian government is considering restrictions to cross-border sales. They range from the creation of a list of banned exportable drugs to the end of doctors co-signing prescriptions for patients they have never examined. The latter would effectively kill the system for good.

As if U.S. patients needed more evidence that drug importation is not a viable long-term solution, Canada's health minister now says Canada will not be the United States' drugstore and cannot vouch for the safety of drugs that originate in other countries.

Prices are rising, Canada has serious concerns and the system some U.S. politicians have hung their hats on now hangs by a thread. As a U.S. surgeon general report found before any of these developments took place, prescription drug importation is a flawed and failing solution to high drug costs. It is time to look to safer, more effective means of making life-saving drugs more affordable.