A little over a year ago, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar joined the ranks of every other HHS Secretary in modern history opposing the idea of drug importation and referred to it as “a gimmick.” Unfortunately, we are now faced with a political gimmick after Secretary Azar announced an importation action plan that unfortunately will not lower out of pocket costs, and instead create great safety concerns for American patients.
This movement came after Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature searched for innovative ways to help provide quality health care for our older Americans at an affordable price during the 2019 Legislative Session. Unfortunately, one of the revolutionary changes made will allow Floridians to buy their medications from Canada and other international countries, threatening the extraordinary progress made over the last decade.
Drug prices are a major concern for senior citizens, but we cannot jeopardize the life of an older American by taking shortcuts. The American Senior Alliance, a nonprofit organization that brings together our nation’s senior citizens to defend their values and protect the rights and services they have earned, testified in several Florida House and Senate Committee hearings and made several credible recommendations to help save on costs with a focus on lowering the out-of-pocket costs for seniors. However, importing prescription medications and risking counterfeit purchases is definitely not the prudent way to proceed.
Product safety is vital. By importing medicines from countries that do not have our same high-quality standards could easily taint our medicine supply chain. A recent CNN article, “Fake Drugs, The Global Industry Putting Your Life at Risk,” crystallized our message when it said, “The manufacture and distribution of medicines today is a complex, globalized affair that it is often hard to track where fake or substandard medicines come from and where they go.” Meanwhile, the FDA has estimated 99.1% of drug products entering the U.S. through international mail in 2019 is non-compliant with agency standards.
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Conwell Hooper is executive director of American Senior Alliance, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for senior citizens. Contact: [email protected].