Prescription Drug Imports – Should It Be Legalized?

By: Clay Wyatt

Many of us have heard the stories of seniors who must choose between eating and taking their meds. With the ever-increasing costs of prescription medications, it seems that there is no clear solution to the problem. Or is there?

There has been a battle going on for as long as I can remember. It involves whether or not Americans should be permitted to purchase prescription drugs from abroad. Let’s examine this issue in greater detail.

Legality

This is perhaps the most unclear legal issue of the modern day. It is technically, sort-of, somewhat illegal to purchase prescription drugs from abroad. Make no mistake about it – you may be prosecuted if you purchase drugs from abroad. However, the FDA has been known to look the other way when drugs are purchased for personal use, leading some consumers to take the risk.

Cost

Brand-name prescription drugs cost more in the United States than anywhere else on Earth. This includes neighboring Canada, which is the source of many prescription drugs that Americans purchase at their own legal risk.

As an example, I ran a check on prescription medication costs on Drugstore.com (US based) and Hometownmeds.com (based in Canada). Here were the costs of several medications:

Drug Price – Drugstore.com Price – Hometownmeds.com
Propecia $214.99 (90 tablets) $137.07 (84 tablets)
Cialis $133.97 (30 tablets) $118.52 (28 tablets)
Levitra $212.99 (10 tablets) $109.12 (8 tablets)

As we can see, the costs of drugs are generally higher in the US and may be nearly double in some cases. Consumers may realize even more savings by purchasing from pharmacies located in India, the UK, Thailand and other locations, as well.

Why Are Costs So High?

In comparison to other countries, costs are high in the US for several reasons. One is that, unlike many other governments, the US Government does not set price controls on pharmaceuticals.

Another reason, although this will probably never be officially admitted, is lobbying. Since 1998, the pharmaceutical/health products industry has spent nearly $2.4 billion on lobbying, which is more than any other industry has spent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what a major reason for that is.

There are plenty of other reasons, but I’d have to write a book to list them all!

Safety

A major reason that the FDA allegedly doesn’t allow importations is safety. It is claimed that the safety of prescription drugs from other countries cannot be verified. However, as the US healthcare system ranks 37th, it stands to reason that plenty of other countries have similar or even higher standards than those of the US.

Is Anything Being Done About This?

Over the years, there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to legalize prescription drug imports. This includes a recent attempt by Senators John McCain and Al Franken to allow importation from Canadian online pharmacies, which didn’t make it past the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Should Prescription Drug Imports Be Legalized?

Legalizing prescription drug imports would create more price competition. US suppliers would either have to reduce their prices or run the risk of losing business. This is simple economics, as a greater selection for consumers will lower prices.

In sum, the case for legalizing prescription drug imports is strong. The economic benefits would be significant and the risks would be relatively minimal, given that the FDA could inspect foreign manufacturers and producers of pharmaceuticals – a process that it already does with other regulated products.

What’s your take on this issue?


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