JDRF has been closely monitoring developments rising from the recent announcement of a “Safe Importation Action Plan” by the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to facilitate the importation of drugs that were intended for other markets, specifically Canada.
The action plan describes two pathways through which lower priced drugs could be imported to the US. The first pathway allows US States, wholesalers and pharmacists to import drugs from Canada if certain conditions are met. Notably, this pathway excludes biological products, the category into which insulin falls. The second pathway allows drug manufacturers to import drugs from foreign countries (which may include Canada), and sell them at a much lower cost than those manufactured and labeled for sale in the US.
In addition, several US states have passed legislation that will allow for importation of drugs from Canada, however, these plans must first be approved by the US federal government and it remains to be seen whether and how that will be accomplished. While there is a fair degree of uncertainty as to whether any of these efforts will succeed let alone open up the avenue for Canadian drug imports US lawmakers are seeking, there is still some cause for concern. Given the size of the US market relative to the Canadian market, any surge in US demand for Canadian insulin is cause for concern.
We welcome recent comments by Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Health Petitpas-Taylor that they are speaking with U.S. Administration officials and will closely monitor drug supply levels in Canada and ensure that Canadians have access to the medication they need at affordable prices.
JDRF Canada hopes to see similar reassurances from Canadian drug manufacturers that the level of prescription drugs needed to supply the Canadian market will not be compromised through export agreements with new U.S. customers.
It is beyond unacceptable for any Canadian with type 1 diabetes to be put in a position where they have to worry about experiencing issues accessing or affording life sustaining medications, like insulin.
It is shocking to see so many people with type 1 diabetes around the world struggling to afford insulin, especially considering that after Sir Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best’s discovered insulin almost 100 years ago, the patent was sold for only $1. As a global charity, JDRF encourages countries to work collaboratively and find ways to keep drug costs down worldwide.
JDRF Canada is a strong advocate for the affordability and accessibility of all appropriate treatments, services, devices and medications (including insulin). We will continue to actively monitor and respond to the situation.