U.S. President Donald Trump has just announced his lifting of longstanding bans on foreign-produced pharmaceuticals from Canada and other countries.
“Trump’s health department Wednesday said it would open up two pathways to let states and companies test drug importing programs in the coming months, promising that modern drug distribution supply chains would allow federal drug regulators to guarantee the products’ safety,” reports Politico.
The move comes to address a common and longstanding concern in the country where families often must divert all their financial resources to medical bills, with pharmaceuticals constituting a large portion of the bill.
In particular, the ageing and rapidly retiring baby boomer generation has been a growing concern.
Medicare and Medicaid costs are expected to have doubled by 2020, CNBC reported in 2017, and “65-year-old couples can expect to pay $275,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for health care, excluding long-term nursing care and rehabilitation—but only have a 50 percent chance of covering these costs.”
According to Pew Research and the Social Security Administration, over 10,000 baby boomers retire every day since they began reaching the age of 65-years-old in 2011.
“By 2033, some pundits say, the Trust Fund will be bankrupt, and taxes will pay only for 48 percent of the costs,” writes CNBC. “There’s Social Security, sure, but the reserve is expected to be depleted by 2033.”
Trump’s decision may, in time, act as a band-aid for America’s problem – in Canada it also exists, but it isn’t as dramatic—however, many from within and outside the pharmaceutical industry are skeptical.
“Rather than surrender the safety of Americans by importing failed polices from single-payer countries, we should work on solutions here at home that would lower patient out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter,” stated CEO of Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, Stephen Ubl.
“This is a misguided attempt to keep an ill-informed campaign promise,” added BIO president Jim Greenwood.
Another major concern is whether Canada can fulfill the much greater American demand for pharmaceuticals and if Canadians will face shortages due to companies selling in the potentially more profitable American market.
“We already know that Canadians suffer from serious drug supply issues and shortages,” Canadian Pharmacists Association spokesperson Joelle Walker told CBC News.
“One in four Canadians report [in a national survey conducted last November] that they have experienced a drug shortage, either personally or a family member, and pharmacists from across the country are saying that shortages have vastly increased in the last three to five years, so our supply chain is already not consistent in Canada.
“This has the potential to really put a lot of pressure on the availability of medications in Canada,” he concluded.