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UPDATE 1-Trump administration opens door to importing medicine from Canada

(Adds details from press release)

July 31 (Reuters) - The Trump administration took a first step on Wednesday toward allowing the importation of medicines from Canada, an action the president has advocated as a way to bring cheaper prescription drugs to Americans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it and the Food and Drug Administration will propose a rule that will allow it to authorize states and other groups to pursue pilot projects related to importing drugs from Canada.

It also said that it would allow drugmakers to bring drugs that they sell more cheaply in foreign countries into the United States for sale here, which the government said could potentially allow them to sell below their contracted prices here.

Evercore ISI analysts Ross Muken and Michael Newshel said in a research note that any implementation is still far away given the technical steps of rule making and that the proposals will face challenges.

The Trump Administration has experienced several recent failures in its efforts to bring down drug prices. Its plans to make drugmakers disclose prices in TV ads had to be thrown out after it lost a legal battle with drugmakers, and it abandoned efforts to force pharmacy benefit managers to pass discounts onto Medicare recipients.

Drug pricing is an important election issue for Trump and also for Democrats, many of whom have said they would support importing medicines to lower U.S. drug prices. Pharmaceutical companies have opposed importing medicine.

Canadian officials were not immediately available for comment. Reuters has previously reported that Canada opposes any U.S. plans to buy Canadian prescription drugs that might threaten the country's drug supply or raise costs for its own citizens, officials have told U.S. authorities, according to documents obtained by Reuters.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)