EDITORIAL: Americans should get access to valid foreign drug markets

One of the few issues that cross party lines is the concern over U.S. health care costs, including the high price of prescription medication. And it’s certainly no secret that the most effective way to exert downward pressure on high prices is the competition that arises from a free market.

Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have filed legislation that seeks to combat high drug prices by opening access to foreign markets. The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act would enable U.S. patients to buy prescription drugs across our international borders.

The bill is in response to a recent criminal investigation the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched against nine Florida stores that sought to connect U.S., consumers with Canadian pharmacies that might offer better drug prices than domestic sources. The FDA reportedly said it was enforcing the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which prohibits the importation of unapproved drugs. The targeted businesses, however, were not selling drugs themselves but helping U.S. customers find Canadian pharmacies that sold approved prescription drugs cheaper.

“For decades, safe and affordable prescription drugs have been for sale just across the border, but legally out of reach for American families,” Grassley said in a news release announcing the legislation. “It’s long past time for Congress to help the millions of Americans who struggle to pay exorbitant prices for medication.”

“The skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs have made lifesaving medications unaffordable for the people who need them, but our neighbors in Canada pay about half as much for their medications,” Klobuchar said in the release. “Our legislation would allow for the safe importation of less expensive drugs from Canada, increasing competition, bringing down drug costs, and saving Americans families money.”

Rio Grande Valley residents know the benefits of having access to foreign markets, including with regard to medicines. Many local residents buy their medications at Mexican pharmacies at much lower prices.

That availability is one reason the Valley is so popular with Winter Texans. Many retirees with chronic medical conditions take advantage of lower prices in Mexico to buy enough drugs to last the entire time they’re at their northern homes.

Drug companies oppose the bill, alleging that foreign markets are rife with counterfeit drugs. Such problems haven’t been reported here, however.

Market pressures are the same regardless of country, and reputable Mexican pharmacies aren’t going to risk losing customers, and perhaps facing government sanctions, by selling bad drugs. Just like U.S. pharmacies, they make sure their suppliers and the drugs they buy are the real thing.

The proposed legislation addresses such concerns by asking the Health and Human Services secretary to publish on the FDA website a list of approved Canadian pharmacies, so that customers will know their reputability has been verified.

Competition is the best and fastest way to apply downward pressure on drug costs. We trust a majority Congress members will agree, and pass this bill.

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