Canadian Imports Are Not an Adequate Solution to High U.S. Medicine Prices

Statements of Public Citizen Experts

Note: The Trump administration today said it is going to develop a plan to allow broader importation of lower-cost prescription medicines from Canada.

“People suffering from unconscionable drug prices are looking for relief, and for some people, with adequate safeguards, that may be found in the somewhat lower prices across the border.

Canada has about a tenth the population of the United States. Importing medicine is no national solution to our crisis of unaffordable medicine at home. Our government needs to challenge the power of drugmakers head on, beginning by negotiating prices directly on behalf of Medicare, as candidate Donald Trump promised but President Trump has failed to do.

It is not clear whether the Trump administration can develop adequate safeguards to assure medicine quality and protect patients under its plan-to-make-a-plan. It may take years to design and implement the proposal, which the Trump administration must know already.

It is absurd to think that drugmakers are going to actively undermine their lucrative U.S. sales. Drugmakers set high U.S. prices and are happy to keep it this way.”

 – Peter Maybarduk, director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

“Trump is talking out of both sides of his mouth on this. Access to cheaper drugs from Canada won’t help many Americans when Trump is also pushing Big Pharma giveaways via the revised NAFTA that would increase the price of lifesaving drugs in Canada and lock in high prices here – including skyrocketing the prices of treatments for diabetes, osteoporosis and heart failure. Ultimately, Trump cares far more about corporate profits than people.”

 – Lori Wallach, director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Fast Facts on the revised NAFTA agreement Trump signed last year, but that is up for revision currently in Congress:

  • Requires signatory governments to guarantee pharmaceutical corporations monopoly powers to block generic competition.
  • Requires governments to guarantee 10 years of marketing exclusivity for biologic drugs and provide patent evergreening opportunities for all drugs, blocking competition to bring down prices.
  • Locks the United States into policies that keep medicines, including critical cancer treatments, outrageously expensive.
  • Exports our failed prescription drug pricing system to Mexico and Canada.
  • Provides longer monopoly benefits for medicines such as: diabetes treatments Victoza, Saxenda, Glucagon and Ozempic; osteoporosis treatment Forteo; heart failure treatment Natrecor; and short bowel syndrome treatment Gattex.

Global Trade Watch has joined Congressional Democrats to demand these terms are eliminated before any vote is scheduled on the new deal.