Canadian writer applauds country’s effort to protect its drug supply

This editorial by Joyce Nelson appeared in CounterPunch on December 4, 2020. Nelson is a researcher and writer whose work appears in a wide range of magazines, newspapers and websites.


Hands Off Canada’s Drug Supply!


Canada’s Health Minister Patty Haidu has taken an important step to block the Trump administration’s plan to import drugs from Canada. On Saturday (Nov. 28), Canada blocked bulk exports of prescription drugs if they would create shortages in Canada. The move came just days before a U.S. “Importation Prescription Drugs” rule was set to come into effect on Nov.30.

That rule would allow U.S. states, wholesalers and pharmacies to import drugs directly from Canada, thereby cutting the price of drugs for Americans. The Trump administration had announced the new rule back in September when President Donald Trump signed a pre-election executive order. Trump campaigned on this issue during the election as a way to cut U.S. drug prices.

But as Canadian federal Minister Haidu noted, “Certain drugs intended for the Canadian market are prohibited from being distributed for consumption outside of Canada if that sale would cause or worsen a drug shortage. Our health care system is a symbol of our national identity and we are committed to defending it.” Her statement added, “The actions we are taking today will help protect Canadians’ access to the medication they rely on.” Especially during the pandemic, Canada has experienced serious shortages of some prescription drugs, according to Health Canada.

In recent years, caravans of U.S. patients needing prescription drugs have crossed the U.S.-Canada border to purchase cheaper drugs from some Canadian pharmacies. But Trump’s executive order is the first time the U.S. has attempted to open the border to drug importation.

During the 2019 Democratic primary race, both candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris expressed support for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to acquire drugs from Canada. Health Minister Patty Haidu’s move is likely seen as a message to the incoming administration to abandon such plans.

Obviously, the U.S. government needs to negotiate with Big Pharma directly in order to bring down drug prices for Americans. It’s hard for Canadians to understand just why the U.S. is so reluctant to do this. Nonetheless, the Canadian message is: Hands Off Canada’s Drug Supply.