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NY Post: Cuomo, Trump admin. agree on importing prescription drugs from Canada

By Bernadette Hogan, December 18, 2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Trump administration are finally on the same page, simultaneously opening the door to the importation of prescription drugs from Canada Wednesday as a solution to lowering the costs of treatment to Americans.

Cuomo plans on creating a new commission to study the process of legally and safely importing drugs from the Canadian market as part of his 2020 State of the State proposal.

A final report would be submitted to the US Department of Health and Human Services for final consideration.

“The exorbitant cost of prescription drugs is a massive burden on families across the country, and we’re determined to use every tool in the tool box and pursue every available avenue to bring real relief to New Yorkers,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration published drafted rules that, if given the OK, would permit certain drugs to be imported from Canada.

The agency also issued a new draft guidance governing importation procedures for drug manufacturers “including biological products, that are FDA-approved, manufactured abroad, authorized for sale in any foreign country, and originally intended for sale in that foreign country.”

President Trump made tackling the rising costs of drug prices a pillar issue during 2016 election campaign, but his administration has yet to gain approval from federal regulators.

2003 law would allow Canadian prescription drug imports, should the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services be able to prove costs would be lowered at no compromise to the American public’s health and safety. But so far no HHS chief has signed off.

In New York, Cuomo’s plan also includes capping monthly insulin co-payments at $100, and grants the state Department of Financial Services the power to investigate drug companies when their product prices spike.

DFS would be allowed to hold hearings “to demand that manufacturers justify the increase,” and if the company is found to impose “unjustifiable” increases, they could face fines.

The plan would need legislative approval from both the state Senate and Assembly.

“The federal government makes it difficult to run an importation program, but it’s not out of the question. We get all sorts of food and other materials from Canada and they’re no less safe for human consumption than when we import them from California or Florida,” said Assemblyman Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

He also sponsors a bill that would pave the way for Canadian drug imports.

“I don’t understand why the governor feels there is a commission needed … but it’s good that he’s thinking in the right direction” said Gottfried.

Gottfried also has a bill that would pave the way for Canadian drug imports. “It is nutty that Americans have to contemplate importing drugs from Canada in order to take advantage of reasonable prices,” he said.

Consumer advocacy groups like the AARP, a nonprofit that lobbies on issues impacting the elderly, have been clamoring for consumer fiscal relief, noting that “skyrocketing” medication costs often deter patients from refilling prescriptions, risking negative health effects.

“The cost of prescription drug treatment grew more than five times the average New Yorker’s income from 2012 to 2017, as the price for key drugs that nearly 4 million New Yorkers rely on to treat cancer, diabetes and heart disease all rose by 62% to 96%,” said AARP NYS director Beth Finkel.

“The result: one in five adult New Yorkers stopped taking prescribed medications, mainly due to cost,” she added.

The Medical Society of the State of New York also supports the governor’s proposal.

“Patients in need of life-saving and health-maintaining medications, including insulin, must be able to receive them in a timely manner,” said Art Fougner, MD, MSSNY president.

“We must continue to examine ways to ensure our patients are truly able to obtain the medications they need to lead a healthy life, including preventing inappropriate PBM or health insurer interference with patients receiving these needed medications.”