As drug shortages have become an ongoing issue in the United States over the years, the FDA set up strategies to cope with the situation and maintained a decent supply of drugs across the country, especially during the crises, while consumers looked for ways to access the abundant medication supply across the border for a cheaper price. Therefore, drug reimportation is now back on the table for debate.
Drug reimportation is currently illegal in the United States but in no way does it mean that consumers, healthcare professionals, and the FDA are on the same page about this issue. Politics aside, the argument between three parties must come to an end to ensure nationwide healthcare quality. Drug shortage crises cost the US healthcare system roughly$216 million annually in labor in the effort of managing the crisis.
Should drug reimportation be legalized in the United States to reduce the impact of drug shortages and the frequency of shortage crises?
Similar to any debate in the healthcare system when costs are involved, drug reimportation should only be legalized if benefits outweigh risks.
22% of seniors and 32% of the uninsured population do not fill their prescriptions due to the burden of high prescription drug costs. This is a significant percentage of the US population that could be considered the major drivers of total healthcare costs in general. In other words, the healthcare system desires this population to be compliant with the drug treatment.
The most motivated in this population together with those who seek to save money on prescription drugs prefer to purchase drugs from websites that provide access to drugs in other countries like Canada and Mexico. The price differences vary from drug to drug but they are generally inexpensive compared to drugs in the United States. This significant portion of the US healthcare budget can be freed up if drug reimportation is legalized and the US population can have access to drugs across the border; hence, no drug shortage crisis.
The FDA exists for the purpose of controlling safety, efficacy, and legitimacy of prescription drugs traded in the United States. These are the three things the FDA has consistently denied to guarantee about reimported drugs due to limited financial and technological resources. A series of “blitz” examinations in 1982 carried out by the FDA and the Customs and Border Protection revealed 90% of mailed drug packages from abroad were unapproved and carried potentially severe health risks.
By purchasing drugs from outside the country, consumers give up not only the FDA-approved quality of drugs but also the service provided along with dispensing medications at US pharmacies. Upon receiving medications from a pharmacy in the US, consumers receive FDA-approved drugs and the assurance from pharmacists that this medication can be safely taken for their current conditions and with other concurrent medications. If drug reimportation practices are legalized, pharmacies will not be able to hold a competitive advantage against imported drugs, throwing US healthcare into a chaotic state of health quality assessment. This will be the downfall of major brand pharmaceutical companies who have been relying on the high price of patented drugs in the US to feed the costly R&D process and new drug innovations, serving the US high healthcare demand. Our country has been well known for being the leader in pharmaceutical innovations, allowing our population to have first access to any groundbreaking new drugs. This can easily be changed if drug reimportation is legalized. No benefits can be proposed to counteract this tremendous risk.
There is no real argument over whether drug reimportation should be legalized among healthcare professionals and the FDA, but it is crucial for these two parties to communicate and persuade consumers to voluntarily stop buying drugs across the border due to the risks outweighing the benefits.
For more information on this issue, contact the Kulkarni Law Firm.