Michigan lawmakers seek low-cost pharmaceuticals from Canada

Sep 21, 2019

Credit Flicker

New legislation in the Michigan House would create a program for importing pharmaceutical drugs from Canada.

Lawmakers behind the bill say the goal is to give state residents access to prescription drugs that can be found more cheaply in Canada.

Republican State Rep. Tommy Brann, D-77, introduced the legislation. He says the idea came to him after meeting a constituent at a yard sale. 

“They were raising money because they had two kids that needed insulin, and they were just having a hard time paying for the insulin,” says Brann. “They were talking about how Canada is cheaper and sometimes they drive to Canada to try and pick up some insulin.” 

Under the bill, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services would develop a list of medications  “with the highest potential for cost savings.”

“Mexico and Canada, they are getting a better deal than we are,” says Brann. “We’re a nice good country, why can’t we get a break?”

A second bill in the state house would create a program for importing pharmaceutical drugs from countries beyond Canada.

Brann says he didn’t think regulation of pharmaceutical companies would be the right approach for lowering drug costs. “They’re not evil people,” he says.

A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a lobbying group representing the pharmaceutical industry, called Brann’s bill an “importation scheme” and says it would jeopardize “the integrity of the U.S. prescription drug supply chain and the safety of Michigan’s patients.”

The full statement reads:

“Efforts to make medicines more affordable for patients are extremely important, but importation schemes like House Bill 4978 are the wrong approach. This proposal jeopardizes the integrity of the U.S. prescription drug supply chain and the safety of Michigan’s patients. This legislation raises serious questions about how the state could implement such a scheme, like what are the costs to the state, who will ensure the medicines are safe and how patients harmed by imported drugs could seek recourse. The biopharmaceutical industry is committed to bringing forward solutions – like ensuring patients receive the discounts and rebates our companies negotiate on their behalf  – that address the challenges patients are facing. We welcome the opportunity to work with lawmakers in Michigan on solutions that will help patients better afford their medicines and keep them safe from harm, but House Bill 4978 does neither.”