Drug-Price Debate Rekindles Fight Over Pill Imports From Canada

The presidential campaign is reigniting the battle over importing prescription drugs from Canada, with all of the leading Democratic candidates endorsing the idea.

Calls for allowing people to buy directly from Canadian pharmacies are also intensifying from some Republicans in Congress, including Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa).

But the drug industry remains dead-set against allowing importation, and it’s unclear whether voter support will translate into legislative action.

“Ensuring patients have access to needed medicines is critical, but importing medicines, whether from Canada or elsewhere in the world, is the wrong answer,” the trade group, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America or PhRMA, wrote in a fact sheet last month. That position was reiterated in a recent briefing with reporters.

The main argument from pharmaceutical companies is that allowing imported drugs into the U.S. could bring in unsafe drugs — a risk that the group says is growing over time.

“It has become very easy for counterfeiters to make bottles and packages look genuine, but the reality is they are often filled with laced, adulterated or fake pills that are dangerous to patients,” the group warned.