If Corona Has Taught Us Anything, It's That Supply Chains Matter - Especially For Drugs!
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned a lot about public health, government’s response in times of crisis, and our own economy. One to the chief lessons many are taking from the outbreak of COVID-19 is in the area of supply chain management - specifically as it relates to drugs.
We’ve seen the communist chinese regime threaten our people’s safety by withholding orders of antibiotics in response to many american leaders laying blame for the virus on the Asian nation. We’ve also seen issues with the supply of M95 masks and ventilators - an issue that President Trump solved unilaterally by activating the Defense Production Act.
Now with this issue of supply chains being on the forefront of everyone’s minds, some legislators are considering further altering the US supply chain of prescriptions by allowing for states to import drugs from Canada. Lawmakers in Governor Ron Disantis’ state of Florida are floating just that type of plan. This misguided action is billed as a cost saving measure that would save patients tons of money but in reality the savings would be minuscule and the safety concerns could be huge.
Pacific Research Institute President & CEO Sally Pipes covered the lack of real cost savings in her piece for Forbes Magazine:
But in the aggregate, prescription drug importation won't save U.S. consumers much money. According to one study of the issue by the Congressional Budget Office, importing drugs from Canada "would produce a negligible reduction in drug spending."
The vast majority of drugs Americans take are generics, which cost about the same in the United States as they do in Canada. So the only potential savings from importation will be on a small number of brand-name drugs.
It's one thing for an individual to cross the border to buy a three-month supply of drugs at the margin. It's another for a state government to import drugs en masse for thousands of people. If drug companies discovered that the drugs they'd made for sale in Canada were all being rerouted to Florida, they might stop selling drugs in Canada altogether. Or they might make sales contingent on the drugs not being exported to the United States.
Pipes is spot on about the quasi cost savings. In reality the savings would be minor and the implications for safety are grave.
As we’ve seen over the years, importing any kind of drug can be treacherous. For a while (before Coronavirus was top news in healthcare),you’d see story after story about some poor person overdosing on a chinese made drug laced with the deadly painkiller, Fentanyl.
The National Institute of Drug Addiction wrote about this safety fact here:
The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that the United States is in the midst of a fentanyl crisis, as traffickers are flooding the drug market with counterfeit prescription drugs containing fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid. These pills, which look like legitimate prescription pain relievers or sedatives, are causing large numbers of fatal overdoses in many parts of the country. Because of its high potency, fentanyl is deadly in very small doses; it is even hazardous for law enforcement, as a lethal dose can be accidentally inhaled or absorbed through skin contact.
This is just one example of the danger importation of drugs can cause. Pipes writes about other dangers in her aforementioned piece for Forbes:
The FDA has warned that "medicine bought over the internet from foreign sources . . . may not be safe or effective." In 2017, four former FDA commissioners—two Democrats, and two Republicans—wrote a letter to Congress expressing their opposition to drug importation. They argued that the FDA wouldn't be able to sufficiently monitor such sales. That would open the door for manufacturers of counterfeit and substandard drugs to inject their wares into the U.S. drug supply.
The problem isn't that Canada isn’t a safe or reputable country to do business with! It’s that with every extra step along the supply chain that we add, the transparency of where the medication comes from disappears. Because let’s be clear - many of the drugs being sold from “Canada” or other first rate trading partners are not Canadian drugs. They could easily be made in China, Mexico, Bangladesh or take your pick.
Isn’t it reasonable to ask our legislators to make sure they know what they’re buying before they buy these drugs for an entire state?
When we buy a used car you typically ask for a CarFax Vehicle History report because you wanna see where this car has been in the past. Has it had any wrecks? Has the transmission been replaced? Are the miles on the odometer accurate or have they been altered?
Saying no to importation is the same way. We deserve to know where our medications came from, who made them, and have they been altered. Importing from Canada or any other country is like buying that car blind. We need to stop this push for importation and keep up the transparency in prescription supply chains!
For more in depth information, check out Sally Pipe’s article on Forbes here!