New HHS Secretary Tom Price has already received a request from three senators to use his newfound power to allow drug importation from Canada. Sens. Grassley (R-Iowa), McCain (R-Ariz), and Klobuchar (D-Minn) believe that this strategy is a way to alleviate the pressure from drastic drug price increases.
Under the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, the FDA can allow pharmacists and wholesale retailers to import Canadian prescription drugs. The agency can also issue a waiver allowing individual importation for personal use. The senators reminded Price that this power is not in effect unless and until the HHS Secretary certifies that importation would not present additional risk to public health and would significantly reduce the cost of covered products.
The senators acknowledge that the standards for broad certification for importing all Canadian drugs would be difficult to meet. However, they note that Price has the authority to issue a targeted certification that allows the importation of some drugs while simultaneously protecting the investments of innovator companies. The letter requests Price’s consideration of certification when drugs lack patent protection, significantly increase in price, have no direct competition, or are produced in another country by the developing brand manufacturer or a well-known generic manufacturer.