Senate HELP Committee Should Reject Importation Proposals


Posted by Alex Hendrie on Tuesday, June 25th, 2019, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Later this week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is expected to markup legislation related to surprise medical billing and healthcare transparency.

This markup is a positive step forward in protecting patients, reducing costs, and making the healthcare system less opaque.

During the markup, it is expected that proposals to allow the importation of prescription medicines into the U.S. will be offered.

These amendments should be rejected.

Importation of medicines results in the importation of socialist, market distorting price controls. These importation proposals do not address the root cause of high prices, will allow unvetted, potentially dangerous medicines into the U.S. and will harm American innovation.

Importation Has Long Been Championed by the Far-Left: Importation will allow drugs from countries with socialized medicine is. This policy has long been supported by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and opposed by proponents of free markets and limited government. 

While importation may sound like a reasonable free market solution, it is actually a clever ploy to trick proponents of limited government into supporting socialist policies that would jeopardize the development of the next generation of life-saving, life-improving medicines.

Importation is Not the Solution to High Prices: The U.S. represents one-third of the market for medicines in the developed world, but pays for as much as 70 percent of the costs, according to the President’s Council for Economic Advisors.

Importation would do nothing to solve this problem. Instead, it would only siphon off drugs from other markets and exacerbate the true problem – foreign countries freeloading off American innovation.

Other countries have lower prices because they impose heavy handed government price controls and other regulations. This limits access to medicines and suppresses innovation. 

This is not hypothetical – of the 290 new medical substances that were launched worldwide between 2011 and 2018, the U.S. had access to 90 percent. By contrast, the United Kingdom had 60 percent of medicines, Japan had 50 percent, and Canada had just 44 percent. The reference pricing policies used in Europe delay new drugs coming to market by an average of 14 months, according to one study.

Importation Schemes Are Potentially Dangerous to Consumers: The Food and Drug Administration has long expressed concern over allowing the importation of medicines. Agency officials have repeatedly stated there is no way to assure the safety, authenticity, or effectiveness of imported drugs, or whether the drugs are from the country the packaging claims it to be.

Attempting to construct such a system would be a bureaucratic nightmare and will be incredibly costly to taxpayers. This is not a partisan issue -- every single Commissioner of the FDA and every HHS Secretary in the past 18 years has acknowledged allowing importation of price-controlled medicines is dangerous.

Importation Would Threaten the U.S. Role as a Leader of Medical Innovation: The U.S. is a leader in medical development with more than half of pharmaceutical / biotech research being conducted in this country.

This research supports numerous high paying jobs, leading to a stronger economy. Conversely, creating barriers to innovation will threaten these jobs and hurt the economy.

Currently, it costs more than $2.6 billion and takes 10 - 12 years to develop a drug, conduct clinical trials, and obtain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for each drug that makes it onto the market.

This innovation directly benefits the U.S. in the form of high-paying jobs, a stronger economy R&D, and access to more life-saving medicines.

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