Should Washington state buy drugs from Canada? What do Canadians think about that plan?
Buying medicine from Canada seems like an easy fix to address prescription drug costs in America, but it doesn't work. More importantly, Canadians want no part of it. The reasons are simple: Canada is one tenth the size of America and already struggles with enormous drug shortages. They manufacture almost none of their own medicine and will be helpless if America raids their drug supply. Canadians have been clear that they don't want any part of this.
Canada stated in November 2019 that they are unable to help America in a meeting at the White House:
"Canada does not have a large enough supply of prescription drugs to meet U.S. demand, and importing medicines from Canada would not significantly lower U.S. prices[..]
Not only are we too small of a market, Canada cannot increase its domestic pharmaceutical drug supply to meet U.S. demand" (Reuters, "Canadian ambassador says drug imports would not lower U.S. prices", November 1, 2019)
Canada's wholesalers and the associations that represent them, upon whom proposals like Washington Senate bill 6110, depend on for importing medicine from Canada, have said they want nothing to do with it.
“We have not been contacted and we are not planning to participate,” said Loblaw Companies Ltd (L.TO), which owns Canada’s largest pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart. “Canadian patients currently face product and drug shortages and we are concerned this initiative may exacerbate what is already a critical issue.” (Reuters, "Canadian drug distributors say no to Trump import plan", December 20, 2019)
Furthermore, a broad coalition of Canadian doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, diabetics and other patient advocates is lobbying the Canadian federal government to take action to prohibit the export of pharmaceuticals from Canada's supply to the U.S., as contemplated by proposals like Washington Senate bill 6110.
Canada's hospital and community pharmacies are resourced to serve the Canadian public. They are not equipped to respond to the needs of another country - let alone one ten times its size - without creating significant access or quality issues for Canadians. (Letter to Justin Trudeau, November 6, 2019)
Prescription drug costs in America are the number one issue facing many families today, but importing from a much tinier country like Canada won't work, especially if they aren't cooperating.
But where's the harm in all this? Won't the program just fail and we'll move on?
Sadly, no. Historically, when Americans wanted cheap medicine from Canada that wasn't available, there were Canadian criminals that jumped in with counterfeits. Some of these operators even held Canadian pharmaceutical wholesale and pharmacy licenses to convince Americans their counterfeits were safe.
If proposals like Washington Senate bill 6110 go forward, more operators like these would fill the gap.
Want to learn more about the problems of Canadian drug importation?
Watch this webinar from PSM Executive Director Shabbir Imber Safdar and veteran Canadian law enforcement officer Don Bell where they talk about the problems related to implementing a Canadian drug importation program.
Listen to Canadian voices on drug importation
Learn more about Canadian drug shortages at www.drugshortagescanada.ca
If 20% of Americans ordered their medicine from Canada, Canada would have shortages within six months according to an economist who has studied this topic for a decade.