By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Trump administration wants to import prescription drugs from Canada to cut costs for Americans.

“For decades, the response at FDA and HHS has been it can’t be done. It can’t be done. Don’t send us your plans. Now we’re saying we think it can be done,” House and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

Rising prescription costs were addressed during Tuesday’s presidential debate.

“People can’t wait. I’ve got my friend, Nicole, out there whose son actually died trying to ration his insulin as a restaurant manager,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

Nicole Smith-Holt’s son was 26.

“So he died because he couldn’t afford his insulin. It’s outrageously priced and unaffordable for most,” Klobuchar said.

The idea of importing from Canada sounds appealing to advocates like Smith-Holt, though she’s doubtful this plan will actually work.

“I think that they really need to focus on regulating the pharmaceutical industry in the United States,” Smith-Holt said. “That’s what they’ve done in Canada.”

Cody Wiberg, executive director of Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, says logistically, the plan doesn’t add up right now.

“Canada literally does not import enough drugs to meet the needs of it’s own population and to send excess drugs to the United States in a large way,” Wiberg said.

And he says it would need support from drug manufacturers.

“The pharmaceutical trade association PhRMA came out in opposition to this, so I don’t quite understand what incentive manufacturers would have,” Wiberg said.

“I don’t think they would willingly participate in something like this,” Smith-Holt said.

Even if there was support, Wiberg says the plan could take years, which is too late for people who already can’t afford the drugs that their lives depend on.

“A type 1 diabetic without insulin could die tomorrow,” Smith-Holt said. “Stop talking about it and just do it.”

Wiberg says it’s unclear if the FDA would approve importing insulin from Canada. The overall plan still has to go through the regulatory process and could face court challenges.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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