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Trump administration plan to allow prescription drugs from Canada

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 18:18:59-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Under current law, Americans can take home a three-month personal supply of medicine from Canada, according to the Ontario Pharmacists Association, but soon, you may be able to access lower-cost drugs through wholesalers and pharmacies.

"They're looking into re-importation, kind of buying wholesale from Canada," said diabetes activist Quinn Nystrom.

The Trump administration announced a plan Wednesday that would set up a system to allow Americans to access lower-cost drugs easily.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says U.S. patients will be able to import medications safely and effectively, with oversight from the Food and Drug Administration.

Nystrom has traveled to Canada several times to buy insulin with groups of people and she says it's worth it.

"If I went to a CVS in Minnesota and decided to buy [insulin] at retail price without insurance it would cost on average $340. When we've gone to Canada, I've been charged between, for that same vial, $26-$30," said Nystrom.

For those who can't afford insulin, things can get dangerous.

"People are dying because they've been forced to ration their insulin and as soon as you ration your insulin, you're playing Russian roulette with your life," said Nystrom.

With more Americans potentially getting their prescription drugs from Canada, Canadian pharmacists fear there might not be enough for everyone.

"We are going to have a shortage because a lot of the drug manufacturers are only doing just in time manufacturing, so they're manufacturing for our population, not for the added increase," said Canadian pharmacist Gerard Longval.

Longval has a few Americans coming to his pharmacy now, but doesn't know if he can handle more.

"For those of people that don't have a drug plan in the states, yeah I would recommend that you come over to us and purchase insulin at 1/5 or 1/10 the cost, but if you do have a drug plan, keep with it over in the states," said Longval.

Lobbying groups for the drug industry say the plan is also dangerous because there would be no safe way to guarantee the safety of drugs coming from outside the United States.

Nystrom feels this is a step in the right direction, but would like to see things happen faster.

"My biggest concern is though...Azar clearly stated that this would take years to implement and we don't have years to wait," said Nystrom.