This editorial by Liz MacMenamin  was published in the Las Vegas Sun on October 18, 2017. MacMenamin is the Vice President of Government Affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada.


Don’t open door to imported drugs

As drug prices continue to soar in the United States, many individuals see importing drugs from abroad as the best solution to overcome this problem. Sens. Bernie Sanders and John McCain have both introduced separate legislation encouraging the importation of drugs from across the border. Though this may appear as a simple and innocent fix to the problem of high drug prices, the reality is starkly different. Importation threatens the safety of all Americans and the security of the United States’ airtight pharmaceutical quality control system.

When patients order from a third party abroad, they expect to receive legitimate pills with active ingredients. In reality, many receive adulterated and unsafe counterfeits, placebos or sugar pills with small, ineffective doses. Some pharmacies in the States are also unaware they may be buying dangerous and ineffective drugs, though they have the best intentions: bringing down the cost for their patients.

The United States cannot ensure from where imported drugs originate. Many drugs are imported from Canada; however, the majority of these drugs are manufactured in other countries. Once these dangerous counterfeits reach the borders of Canada, there is no quality assurance, unlike the Federal Drug Administration’s system in the U.S.

The FDA has an airtight quality control system for all drugs manufactured in the United States for the market. The FDA is already lacking necessary resources to ensure quality of drugs domestically. This year, four previous FDA commissioners wrote a letter stating how it would be nearly impossible to retain the highest level of quality control on all imported drugs. They stated the FDA would no longer be able to secure all access points to the country. Even if it could, the funding would not be granted for such a possibility.

Importing drugs will also increase the potential for already illegal drugs to be more easily accessible. Fentanyl has taken over the streets of America. This drug is 50 to 100 times more deadly than heroin. A simple dusting of the drug can lead to overdose, putting our cops and first responders in higher danger.

Further, the importation of drugs from abroad is not free trade, as so many have characterized it. As Americans for Tax Reform has stated in an open letter, “implementing an importation policy is simply adopting market-distorting price controls from other countries, which would disrupt U.S. innovation of life-saving and life-preserving medicines.” If more Americans were to purchase their drugs from abroad, less dollars would then be reinvested into research and development with drug companies. The loss of R&D dollars would not only hurt the potential of receiving more life-saving drugs, but would also cut jobs across the board in the drug industry.

This legislation must not be allowed to pass Congress. Americans’ lives are dependent on the FDA’s quality assurance and these bills fly in the face of that. We cannot put our health at risk. I urge Sen. Dean Heller R-Nev., to actively work against this bill.