The Trump administration proposed a rule Wednesday to allow states to import prescription drugs from Canada, moving forward a plan announced this summer that the president has said will bring cheaper prescription drugs to Americans.
Importation of drugs from Canada as a way to lower costs for U.S. consumers has been considered for years. Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), called the move “a historic step forward in efforts to bring down drug prices and out-of-pocket costs.”
Industry trade groups in both countries opposed the plan, saying it will not lower costs and could hurt Canadian drug supplies.
Azar said HHS would also offer guidance to drugmakers that wish to voluntarily bring drugs they sell more cheaply in other countries into the United States for sale here.
The pathways for importation were announced in July, when Azar unveiled a “Safe Import Action Plan.”
Azar could not provide an estimate of how soon Americans could start seeing cheaper drugs from Canada. The proposed rule would need to pass through a 75-day comment period before being finalized, he said.
“We’re moving as quickly as we possibly can,” he added.
Governors of states including Florida, Maine, Colorado, Vermont and New Hampshire have already expressed an interest in importing drugs from Canada once the pathway to do so is fully in place, Azar said. States would be required to explain how any proposed drug imports would reduce drug prices for consumers.
The proposal faces opposition from large U.S. pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
Jim Greenwood, current head of biotech industry group BIO and a former Republican congressman, said that importation would not result in lower prices for consumers, citing nonpartisan budget experts and past U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioners.
“Today’s announcement is the latest empty gesture from our elected lawmakers who want us to believe they’re serious about lowering patients’ prescription drug costs,” Greenwood said.
Ottawa also has criticized the plan. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. said last month that importing medicines from north of the border would not significantly lower U.S. prices. Reuters previously reported that Canada had warned U.S. officials it would oppose any import plan that might threaten the Canadian drug supply or raise costs for Canadians.
The federal government has suggested it could step in and block exports in the event that any such plans threaten Canada’s drug supply. In fact a previous government already introduced a bill in the House of Commons that would have allowed a block on exports.
The Paul Martin government introduced Bill C-83 in 2005 when American politics was previously awash in talk of importing from Canada. But it never became law, as the Martin government was defeated soon thereafter and the issue died down in the U.S.
Canada drug supply ‘insufficient’
“The drug supply is insufficient for the Canadian market, let alone trying to divert it to a much larger market like the U.S.,” said Daniel Chiasson, president of the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, a trade group that represents drug distributors.
“We’re not supportive of any policy initiative or policy proposal that has the capacity to threaten the stability of medications available to Canadians.”
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPHA) was still analyzing the announcement Wednesday afternoon to assess whether it might have a practical impact.
“With an average of five new drug shortages reported each day in Canada, we are not in a position to supply a country 10 times our size. These proposals could significantly restrict the availability of medications for our patients,” CPHA chair Christine Hrudka said in a statement to CBC News.
Speaking to reporters in Florida on Wednesday, Azar said Canadians’ cheaper drug prices were the result of a free ride off of American investment and innovation.
“Obviously the Canadians are going to be looking out for Canadians,” he said. “We’re here to put American patients first.”
Many prescription medicines would be excluded from importation from Canada, such as biologic drugs, including insulin, controlled substances and intravenous drugs.
Tip-toeing around big pharma
U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has struggled to deliver on a pledge to lower drug prices before the November 2020 election. Health-care costs are expected to be a major focus of the campaign by Trump and Democratic rivals vying to run against him.
The Trump administration in July scrapped an ambitious policy that would have required health insurers to pass billions of dollars in rebates they receive from drugmakers to Medicare patients.
Also in July, a federal judge struck down a Trump administration rule that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to include the wholesale prices of their drugs in television advertising.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are proposing drug pricing bills that contain some of the proposals Trump has advocated, such as indexing public drug reimbursements to foreign drug costs.
But Trump has said he will veto the Democrat-led House bill if it comes to his desk on the grounds that it would slow down innovation.
“Once again, the Trump White House is tiptoeing around big pharma with a spectacularly pinched and convoluted proposal that excludes insulin and has no actual implementation date,” said Henry Connelly, a spokesman for U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
“If President Trump actually wants to lower drug prices, he should pick up the phone and tell Senator McConnell to send him the House-passed Lower Drug Costs Now Act.”
At least 34 dead after floods in north India
At least 34 people have died following days of heavy rains in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, the state’s chief minister said, as rescuers continued work to free those stranded on Wednesday.
Aerial footage of the affected areas showed engorged rivers and villages partially submerged by floodwaters.
“There is huge loss due to the floods … the crops have been destroyed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami told Reuters partner ANI after surveying the damage late on Tuesday.
“The locals are facing a lot of problems, the roads are waterlogged, bridges have been washed away. So far 34 people have died and we are trying to normalise the situation as soon as possible.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet he was “anguished” by the loss of life.
The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is especially prone to flooding. More than 200 were feared killed in February after flash floods swept away a hydroelectric dam.
Unseasonally heavy rains across India have led to deadly floods in several areas of the country in recent days. Authorities in the southern state of Kerala said on Monday more than 20 people had died there following landslides. (This story corrects typographic error in the last paragraph)
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Jane Wardell)
Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away
A volcano erupted in Japan on Wednesday, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows and falling rocks, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
Mount Aso, a tourist destination on the main southern island of Kyushu, sent plumes of ash 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high when it erupted at about 11:43 a.m. (0243 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
It raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, telling people not to approach, and warned of a risk of large falling rocks and pyroclastic flows within a radius of about 1 km (0.6 mile) around the mountain’s Nakadake crater.
The government is checking to determine the status of a number of climbers on the mountain at the time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, but added that there were no reports of casualties.
Television networks broadcast images of a dark cloud of ash looming over the volcano that swiftly obscured large swathes of the mountain.
Ash falls from the 1,592-metre (5,222-foot) mountain in the prefecture of Kumamoto are expected to shower nearby towns until late afternoon, the weather agency added.
Mount Aso had a small eruption in 2019, while Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
UK Manchester Airport terminal to reopen after security scare
Terminal Two at Britain’s Manchester Airport will reopen after Greater Manchester Police found no security threat following reports of a suspicious package, a spokesperson for the airport said on Tuesday.
“…Greater Manchester Police is satisfied that there is no security threat and has lifted the cordon that was in place,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the terminal will reopen within the next hour.
The terminal was closed earlier on Tuesday evening after police began assessment of reports of a suspicious package.
In a previous statement, the airport said a “controlled evacuation” was taking place.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas and Nishit Jogi in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Pullin)
COVID-19 drives up demand for flu shots; N.S. to launch campaign later this week – CTV News Atlantic
PG woman denied high dose flu shot, although her age and health condition makes her eligible – CKPGToday.ca
Vancouver Island art councils work together on regional impact study – Parksville Qualicum Beach News – Parksville Qualicum Beach News
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Health15 hours ago
Ontario open to mass-vaccinating children against COVID at schools – iPolitics.ca
Sports13 hours ago
A Look at the Betting Market after Single Game Bets Open Up
News15 hours ago
Africa calls for climate finance tracker after donors fall short
Business14 hours ago
P&G to increase prices further as commodity, freight costs bite
Health15 hours ago
Exclusive-WHO-led programme aims to buy antiviral COVID-19 pills for $10 -document
Business15 hours ago
Britain strikes green investment partnership with Bill Gates
Business15 hours ago
First U.S. futures-based bitcoin ETF begins trading, bitcoin nears record
News15 hours ago
Facebook to pay up to $14.25 million to settle U.S. employment discrimination claims