January 12, 2016
Sen Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) and Sen John McCain (R, Ariz) have urged Sylvia Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), to authorize increased importation of less expensive prescription drugs from Canada and possibly other countries.
“A wave of recent news reports has highlighted a troubling trend of sudden, exponential price increases for prescription drugs,” the senators wrote in their letter to Burwell in November (http://1.usa.gov/1SuvlVg).
For example, in August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the US marketing rights to Daraprim (pyrimethamine), which is used in combination with a sulfonamide to treat toxoplasmosis, and immediately raised the per-tablet price from $13.50 to $750. Although Turing later announced it would lower the price of Daraprim for hospitals as much as 50%, the price would still be far costlier than before Turing acquired the drug (http://bit.ly/1T1ftJE).
“Many of the drugs subjected to drastic price increases are available in other countries for a fraction of the cost and are often still produced by either the original brand manufacturer or a reputable generic manufacturer,” Grassley and McCain wrote.
Under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, the Food and Drug Administration can permit pharmacists and wholesale retailers as well as individuals to import prescription drugs from Canada. However, the law requires that the HHS secretary first certify that importation would pose no health risk and would significantly cut costs for consumers, according to the senators’ letter.