February 28, 2017

Van Hollen Introduces Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.) to introduce legislation to lower the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) introduced a companion bill in the House.

Both measures would authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services in two years to allow importation from other advanced countries.

In Canada and other major countries, the same medications, manufactured by the same companies, in the same factories are available for a fraction of the price compared to the United States. In 2014, Americans spent $1,112 per person on prescription drugs while Canadians spent $772 and Danes spent $325.

While five major drug manufacturers made more than $50 billion in profits in 2015, nearly 1 in 3 Americans could not afford the medicine they were prescribed at some point in their lives.

"At a time when seniors and families in Maryland and across the country are facing rising drug prices - coupled with Republican efforts to take access to health care and patient protections away from every American - we must take action on this important issue. President Trump campaigned on the promise that he would fight for working families, and this a clear opportunity to make good on that promise. Failing to do so means he's putting powerful special interests before working Americans," said Senator Van Hollen. "Importing prescription drugs will increase competition, lower costs, and ultimately save lives. We must move forward now on this common sense solution."

The legislation, the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, introduced in the Senate and House, would instruct the secretary of Health and Human Services to put forward regulations allowing wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs from licensed Canadian sellers. After two years, the secretary would have the authority to permit importation from countries in the Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with standards for the approval and sale of prescription drugs that are comparable to those in the United States.

The bill includes detailed provisions outlining safeguards and consumer protections that ensure the safety of imported drugs, including FDA certification of foreign sellers, a clear definition of what drugs may be imported and supply chain security requirements.

Legally imported drugs under the bill must be purchased from an FDA-certified foreign seller and must have the same active ingredient, route of administration and strength as drugs approved in the United States. The new agreement also cracks down on rogue online pharmacies.

Allowing the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs is overwhelmingly supported by the American people with 71 percent in favor of allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada.

Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) Angus King (I-Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) are original co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate.

Original co-sponsors in the House include: Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), Robert Brady (D-Penn.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ed Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.).

Organizations supporting the bill include: Alliance for Retired Americans, American Federation of Teachers, Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA), CREDO, DailyKos, Economic Policy Institute, Justice in Aging, MoveOn, NAACP, National Center for Health Research, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Organization for Women, PharmacyChecker.com, Prescription Justice, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, RxRights, and Social Security Works.

For a summary of the bill and background, click here.