Trump’s answer to high US drug prices is a raid on Canada’s medicine chest: Coteau

NORTH YORK—The Trump administration’s scheme to start allowing Americans to legally import prescription drugs from Canada represents a misguided raid on Canada’s medicine chest, Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East, said today.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the reversal of long-standing US policy Wednesday, upending opposition from US federal health authorities as public pressure escalates in the US over rising prices for medications.

“Donald Trump's answer to high US drug prices is a raid on Canada’s medicine chest,” Coteau charged. “This is a coordinated campaign by the White House to solve America’s drug-pricing disaster by sending millions of patients across the border to buy their medications cheaper than they can at home.”

“As I said on Sunday when Senator Bernie Sanders showed up in Windsor with the 'American caravan' of patients buying insulin, Canadians are extremely sympathetic to our American neighbours who face rising drug prices that may force them to choose between feeding their families and filling their prescriptions,” said Coteau. “Certainly, I share Senator Sanders's goal of universal medication coverage. But Canada simply cannot meet the medication supply needs of a country ten times its size.”

Azar’s announcement made it clear federal opposition to cross-border drug importation is a thing of the past; “The landscape and the opportunities for safe linkage between drug supply chains has changed,” Azar said. “That is part of why, for the first time in HHS’s history, we are open to importation. We want to see proposals from states, distributors, and pharmacies that can help accomplish our shared goal of safe prescription drugs at lower prices.”

Coteau expressed concern that ramped-up sales of medications to US patients by Canadian pharmacies will create drug shortages in Canada and threaten the health of Canadians.

“This situation has escalated quickly—it’s no longer about relatively small numbers of US patients crossing the border to buy specific drugs like insulin that have a high Canada-US price differential,” Coteau warned. “Within months or even weeks, Canada stands to be deluged by American patients suddenly free to save big by buying drugs meant for Canadians.”

“On Sunday, I called for due diligence by Health Canada to monitor insulin supplies and ensure the needs of Canadian diabetics continue to be met,” Coteau said. “Clearly the supply of far more prescription drugs than insulin will soon be cause for concern.”

“Donald Trump has it wrong – cross-border importation by US patients is not a long-term solution to American drug pricing models,” Coteau said. “Canada cannot let cross-border importation create or exacerbate drug shortages in our country.”

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