Drug Reimportation’s Dangerous Allure
A Misguided Cost-Control Measure Guaranteed to Harm Patient Care
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Despite the heated rhetoric emanating from the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns, all three major party candidates seem to agree on one thing: that the prices of innovative new pharmaceuticals are unfairly high, and that costs could be controlled if only Congress would legalize the large-scale reimportation of drugs from countries like Canada, Britain, and elsewhere, where price controls make drugs more affordable.
However, such an approach is short-sighted, and implementing it as policy would have serious negative consequences for American consumers. Although reimportation would, in the short run, result in lower prices for drugs already on the market, in the long run it would reduce the capital available for drug research and, in turn, reduce the flow of new drugs developed and entering the marketplace each year. As Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman and over 160 other economists have argued, “American consumers would get the short-term windfall of lower prices, but they would end up unnecessarily suffering and living shorter lives—because promising new therapies would be delayed or not even developed.”