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Senator Alexander and locals talk access to cheaper medications

Brandon Paykamian • Aug 2, 2019 at 8:00 PM

President Donald Trump’s administration announced proposals Wednesday to allow the importation of pharmaceutical drugs into the United States.

One proposal would encourage pharmacists to submit plans to the Food and Drug Administration detailing how to import medications approved by Health Canada. The other would allow manufacturers to import other versions of drugs sold in other countries.

Manufacturers would have to convince the Department of Health and Human Services that the imports are safe.

While similar plans allowing drug importation have previously been pushed by Democratic legislators who’ve faced opposition from large swaths of the GOP, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he welcomes steps to allow the importation of cheaper drugs.

“This is the first administration to take concrete steps to allow the importation of prescription drugs to reduce their cost, and I welcome it. The key for me is whether this plan preserves the Food and Drug Administration’s gold standard for safety and effectiveness,” the senator said in a Wednesday statement to the Press.

The administration's proposal comes amid efforts in the U.S. House and Senate to lower drug costs and increase access to cheaper generic versions of medications, such as the bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 proposed by Alexander.

This legislation, which Alexander hopes to bring to the full Senate for consideration after the August recess, aims to increase “prescription drug competition to help bring more lower-cost generic and biosimilar drugs to patients.”

Local resident Lucas Pierce says he supports efforts that aim to expand access to cheaper medications in general.

“I believe the pharmaceutical industry in the United States has become a soulless industry that only cares about profit and no longer cares about human life. If patients can get prescriptions more affordably by importing, then I fully support it,” the Johnson City resident said.

With an upcoming presidential election looming, debates in the Democratic Party primary about health care have continued to heat up.

Some party progressives say drug importation proposals do not go far enough when it comes to providing affordable, quality health care. Many want Medicaid expansion in states like Tennessee and a “Medicare For All” plan similar to the plans proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

“We can't just use Band-Aid fixes for a limited few when we have serious issues with our health care and drug policies. Trump wants to allow some states to import some drugs for some people. We need health care solutions for every American because health care is a human right,” Washington County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Joe Buckles said.

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