OTTAWA, ON (December 1, 2020): In a move to protect Canada’s drug supply that has long been recommended by Macdonald-Laurier Institute experts, the federal government has announced that it will block bulk exports of prescription drugs to the US that would threaten to create shortages in Canada.
Largely absent in the Canadian media’s coverage of US politics has been the looming threat posed by US drug reimportation. The idea of importing drugs from Canada to sell at a fraction of the price usually paid in the US is not a new idea, but it would have devastating effects on Canadians’ access to pharmaceuticals.
Though President Donald Trump and state legislators championed the idea during the 2020 election campaign, it had bipartisan support including Democrats Bernie Sanders and now president elect Joe Biden.
This issue has been a priority for MLI for some time. Last month, Brian Ferguson, a noted health care economist, argued that the resurgence of interest in drug re-importation in the US should greatly concern Canadian in the MLI paper, “Americans Are After Our Drugs Again: Why and What Can We Do About It?”
Ferguson argued that large scale drug reimportation would greatly disrupt Canadian supplies but would do nothing to address root causes of America’s perceived high drug prices.
Ferguson recommended Ottawa revive a proposal made by former federal minister of health Ujjal Dosanjh. Dosanjh proposed that authority should be given to the minister of health to block the large-scale export of drugs from Canada.
Dosanjh warned back in 2005 that “Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States of America.” Furthermore, Dosanjh joined MLI with Ferguson alongside other top experts for a high-level panel event back in October 2019 to discuss the threat of reimportation and potential Canadian responses.
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