Health and Science

Trump says administration will soon release plan allowing states to import drugs from Canada

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump says his administration will soon release a plan that will allow states to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
  • "While we had the first prescription drug price decrease in 50 years, Americans still pay far too much for drugs — other countries pay far less — that is WRONG!" he says.
Cars line up to cross into the US at the US/Canada border in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday that his administration will soon release a plan that will allow states to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

"While we had the first prescription drug price decrease in 50 years, Americans still pay far too much for drugs — other countries pay far less — that is WRONG!" Trump said in a tweet. "We will soon be putting more options on the table..."

It's unclear exactly how the plan has changed since the Department of Health and Human Services released an outline in July. According to the outline, states, wholesalers and pharmacists — acting as intermediaries for consumers — would draft a proposal for safe importation of drugs already available in the U.S. The groups would then submit the proposal to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.

In most circumstances, it is illegal to import medications from other countries for personal use, according to the FDA.

Canadian health officials and the pharmaceutical industry are against the proposal.

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Former Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said Trump's proposal threatens Canada's supply of drugs and could raise prices for Canadians.

The pharma industry has argued importing prescription drugs could threaten consumer safety. It has said importing drugs increases the potential for counterfeit or adulterated products.

In a statement Friday, Canada's Office of the Minister of Health said its acting ambassador to the United States has been in regular contact with the White House and HHS on the drug importation plan.

"Our message remains the same: we are sympathetic to U.S. concerns regarding the cost of prescription drugs and share the goal of ensuring that our citizens can get and afford the medication they need," press secretary Alexander Cohen said. "Yet Canada's pharmaceutical market is simply too small to have any real impact on American prices."

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America pointed CNBC to its statement in July when the administration first released its proposal.

Supporters of the plan, including Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, say the tactic would increase competition and substantially lower prices.

Trump also said Friday he is ready to work with Democrats on a bill to lower prescription drug prices.

Earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to work with Trump on a bill to lower drug prices even after launching an impeachment inquiry. In response, Trump accused Pelosi of trying to distract voters.

In a tweet Friday, Trump said Pelosi's bill to lower drug prices "doesn't do the trick."