Drugmakers are fighting back against a request by U.S. senators who want HHS Secretary Tom Price to make it easier to import drugs from Canada as a strategy to combat rising drug prices.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) made the request Tuesday through a letter. An HHS spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.
They say Price has the statutory authority to fast-track the importation of prescription drugs from Canada when those drugs would pose no risk to the public's health and safety and would result in savings.
They urged Price to import drugs that are off-patent or no longer marketed in the U.S. by the initial developer; have had significant, unexplained increases in price; and have no direct competition.
Drugmakers immediately slammed the request.
“The importation of unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicines into the United States jeopardizes our secure medicine system and presents a serious risk to public health,” said Nicole Longo, a PhRMA spokesperson.
The letter from the senators comes just days after the Food and Drug Administration approved Emflaza, a steroid that treats Duchenne muscular dystrophy in children. The drug's manufacturer, Marathon Pharmaceuticals, planned to charge $89,000 a year despite it long being available in Canada and elsewhere for $1,000 to $2,000 a year.
Daniel Seayon, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, said prices will be controlled when there is more competition on American soil.
Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, worried imported drugs would not be subject to FDA standards. Carome said Congress should allow the CMS to negotiate drug prices for the Medicare program and limit the rate in which drug companies can raise prices on a product each year.