HHS's Federal Action Plan for Drug Importation, 2019

Synopsis:

On December 18, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released proposed regulations for importation by pharmacists and wholesalers (Pathway #1) or by manufacturers (Pathway #2).

Current status:

HHS's comment period for RIN 0910-AI45 ended on March 9th. Read PSM's summary of the results here.

What you can do now:

Because these programs have never sustainably saved money, and have endangered Americans every time they've been attempted, PSM is taking a number of actions to fight for patient safety. As we develop opportunities to speak up for safety, we'll put these here.

How should we evaluate this program?

Until July 2019, every head of Health and Human Services and the FDA since 2003 has refused to certify the safety of drug importation. Many—including Alex Azar, former FDA Commissioner and Trump appointee Scott Gottlieb, and his four immediate predecessors—have explicitly criticized these proposals as unsafe, unimplementable, and unlikely to save money.

HHS and FDA hasn't implemented its proposals yet so there's no way to evaluate whether they save money or keep patients safe. However previous programs in Maine, Illinois, and Minnesota all shut down because they didn't save the money promised. They all had safety lapses as well.

Planning documents

HHS/FDA announces the Safe Importation Action Plan. July 31, 2019

Section 804 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act which outlines the method by which the Federal government may import medicine from Canada.

Background / resources

Just learning about foreign drug importation proposals? Start with some of these resources that outline the safety issues.

PSM Materials:

Challenges to importation:

Coverage:

 

Op-eds from the Experts

Canadian Law Enforcement: our resources secure the Canadian drug supply, not foreign export shipments

May 23, 2019

In this editorial, which was published in The Bend Bulletin on May 21, 2019, Canadian law enforcement veteran Don Bell explains why Oregonians can not rely on Canada for safe prescription drugs.

Joni Inman of Front Range Pharmalogic Describes Canadian Drug Importation as a ‘Dangerous Myth’

May 22, 2019

Dozens of the most highly qualified law enforcement officials and former, senior staff at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have conducted in-depth analyses that show Canadian drug importation will lead to a massive increase in counterfeit drugs entering the U.S.

ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force Director: “Don’t Import Prescription Drugs”

May 13, 2019

In this editorial published in The Hill on May 12, 2019, Brooklyn Roberts, the director of the health and human services task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, discusses the risks of drug importation:

“The safety of our prescription drugs relies on a closed system where drugs can be traced to manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and patients. Opening that system to foreign drugs would allow the potential for dangerous and potentially deadly medicines to land in the hands of the American public.”

Former FBI Director Warns About the Hidden Risks of Drug Importation

May 1, 2019

In this editorial published on April 30, 2019, former FBI Director Louis Freeh talks about the safety risks of drug importation: “There are hidden risks and costs associated with the scheme that have not been getting much attention which impact your health and Colorado law enforcement’s ability to keep us safe.”

Economist questions the fundamentals of importation: “It flunks a basic policy analysis.”

April 29, 2019

In this editorial published on April 26, 2019, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, economist and President of American Action Forum, questions economic truths about drug importation:

“Drug reimportation has long been the fool’s gold of health policy, and the Florida bill is no different. It flunks a basic policy analysis. But most amazing, it is drafted to raise hope, but not actually help Floridians.”

Journalist on drug importation: “There is a real risk.”

April 28, 2019

In this piece published in the Washington Free Beacon on April 25, 2019, staff writer Charles Fain Lehman explores issues around Florida’s drug importation proposal. “Critics,” he notes, “fear that the actual realities of regulatory oversight—especially in the hand of an as-yet-unnamed private vendor—will simply be too challenging to manage responsibly.”

Utah pharmacist and state senator: Importation raises “serious concerns about drug safety”

April 27, 2019

In this piece, which was published in The Deseret News on April 24, 2019, pharmacist and Utah State Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers raises serious concerns about importation as a strategy to lower drug prices:

“Anyone who truly understands how drugs are sold and distributed in the U.S. knows that there are very solid technical reasons that such importation is not viable. There are also serious concerns about drug safety, since the CHS cannot guarantee origin and purity on foreign-sourced drugs.”

The Bottom Line? “Importation will make it difficult to ensure that Floridians are receiving real and safe medicine.”

April 26, 2019

In this piece, which was published on the ABC affiliate WJLA’s website on April 25, 2019, political analyst Boris Epshteyn explains that “this is a risky plan that will make it difficult to ensure that Floridians are receiving real and safe medicine.”

The case against importation: “There are simply too many channels for fake drugs to enter any importation scheme”

April 23, 2019

In this piece, which was published in the Inside Sources on April 22, 2019, Michael Graham reviews the case against drug importation: “As Scott Gottlieb said in 2016 before becoming President Trump’s FDA chief…’There are simply too many channels for fake drugs to enter any importation scheme to forgo some meaningful controls.’”

Oncology Practice Managers: This “drug importation proposal that could put Floridians at risk”

April 22, 2019

In this editorial, which was published in the Palm Beach Post on April 22, 2019, Michelle Flowers writes about Florida’s history of black market cancer treatments and the danger importation poses to patients. Flowers is president of the Oncology Managers of Florida.