University of Maryland professor Robert Freeman warns that proposed changes in U.S. laws and regulations to make the movement of drugs from other countries easier will increase fentanyl deaths in the U.S.  

In an editorial in The Hill, Dr. Freeman warns that the opioid abuse problem affects a greater proportion of the Canadian population than the U.S. He cites a UN report that “Canada consumes more prescription opioids on a per capita basis than any other country.” This problem, he says, which is already winding its way to the United States from Canada and Mexico through online suppliers “exploiting gaps at the border,” will be more challenging to control if legislation is passed “circumventing American and Canadian laws that are intended to guarantee the safety of the drug supply.”   

Dr. Freeman agrees with former Food and Drug Administration Commissioners Robert M. Califf, Margaret B. Hamburg, Mark B. McClellan and Andrew von Eschenbach, “that reducing healthcare costs by allowing importation of drugs from Canada is too simplistic and endangers public health.”  The four former commissioners stated in an open letter to Congress that, “There are far better ways to improve access to safe and effective drugs. We believe Congress should consider other approaches to address problems with current drug pricing, and take steps to bring down drug costs and health care costs more generally.”

Robert Freeman, Ph.D. is professor & vice chair for research at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Pharmacy & Health Professions.