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State Leaders in Life Sciences Weigh in on Drug Importation

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Guest Author
March 12, 2020

By Debbie Hart, President & CEO of BIONJ

As a leader within the New Jersey life sciences, ensuring that patients have affordable access to prescription medicines is a leading priority for my organization and the scientists and researchers we represent. We strongly believe that policymakers at both the state and federal levels should take responsible steps to help reduce what patients pay out of pocket for their medicines. 

We also believe that public policies must not destroy future innovation, and just as importantly, they must not jeopardize the health and safety of America’s patients. That is why, earlier this week, I joined more than 30 state bioscience leaders urging the Trump administration to withdraw its plan to import prescription drugs from Canada. While no doubt well-intentioned, the administration’s importation proposal would impose on American patients and communities significant risks, while doing little to lower what consumers must pay for medicines. In a letter to the administration, we note:

“The United States has long been the global gold standard in ensuring the safety of prescription treatments. Importation from other countries – even Canada – does not guarantee that the same safety and efficacy standards would apply to imported drugs. For example, Canada imports 80 percent of its prescription medicines from other countries, and while its regulators rightfully oversee the safety of the supply of medicines intended for and used in Canada, they do not apply those standards to drugs intended only for export. …

“The drug supply system is highly regulated and works to ensure that American Patients receive the treatment they were prescribed and not a counterfeit, adulterated, misbranded or tampered product. Providing for large scale Canadian importation will lead to significant supply chain cost increases and additional burden on Federal and State law enforcement agencies tasked with interdiction of counterfeit drugs. …

“[T]he proposed rule will likely do little to lower consumer costs at the pharmacy counter and will almost certainly compromise the underlying safety of the American drug supply chain. As such, CSBA respectfully and strongly urges the Administration to withdraw this proposal."

These concerns are not new and we are not alone in sharing them. Trusted law enforcement officials, including our nation’s sheriffs, as well as former commissioners of the Food and Drug Administration, have all explained why the risks of drug importation far outweigh any potential benefit.

While we cannot support this drug importation rule, we stand ready to work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle—in Washington D.C. and state capitals across the country—on real solutions that will, as our letter states, “lower patient out-of-pocket prescription costs and protect patient health and safety.” It’s precisely those kind of patient-centered solutions that I and all of America’s life science leaders are eager to support.

Debbie Hart BIONJ
Debbie Hart, President & CEO, NJ BIO

Debbie Hart, founding President and CEO of BioNJ, is dedicated to the mission and work of BioNJ. She worked alongside New Jersey’s biotechnology industry leaders to establish BioNJ in 1994 and has been dedicated to the organization since then. 

Council of State Bioscience Associations Comments on FDA’s Proposal on Importation of Prescription Drugs from Canada
BIO Comments on FDA’s Proposal on Importation of Prescription Drugs from Canada