July 13, 2024

Are American states coming for Canada’s drugs? Here’s how things could play out

Could the demands of competing in a North American market cause supply problems in Canada, following Florida’s approval from the FDA to import medicine?

When the FDA gave Florida permission to import medicine in bulk from Canada last month, it set off alarm bells that the massive U.S. market could suddenly begin gobbling up this nation’s drug supply.

Canadians were all too familiar with the scarcity of children’s pain relief during the pandemic as well as the widely publicized run on Ozempic, used to help Type 2 diabetics produce more insulin.

Could the demands of competing in a North American market, against a country nearly 10 times its size, have the same type of effects?

The short answer is yes — although there really is no short answer.

List prices for patented medicines in Canada are about a third what they are in the U.S., so states could conceivably buy medicine in bulk from Canada and save a bundle for state-run programs such as Medicaid, which is for children and low-income individuals, as well as prison drug programs for inmates, as the FDA authorization allows Florida to do.

And numerous other states are already following Florida’s lead, including Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, which have passed laws allowing them to create drug importation programs, a necessary step before they can seek FDA approval to do so.

But experts say it won’t necessarily be easy for states to follow through if they get approval.

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