Texas Looking to Canada for Cheaper Meds

Prescription medications
Prescription medications | Image by EHStockphoto/Shutterstock

Texas is one of several states seeking to buy cheaper medications from the U.S.’s neighbor to the north.

A new bill passed by the Texas Legislature took effect on September 1, allowing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to collaborate with Canadian drug wholesalers.

House Bill 25 established the “Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program” after passing in a nearly unanimous vote in April, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

At the time, the bill’s author, Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock), stressed that Texans pay twice as much for medication as compared to Canadian citizens.

One study found that roughly 1.1 million Medicare beneficiaries might die prematurely over the next decade due to an inability to pay for their medication.

Moreover, one of the largest public health issues affecting Americans of all ages today is obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that 41.9% of adults and 19.7% of children in the country are obese. Since obesity is linked to an array of adverse health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, and more, the epidemic is estimated to cost Americans approximately $147 billion each year in health care services.

Yet there are still many roadblocks to providing Texas residents with prescription medications at prices significantly lower than those offered by American wholesalers, according to The Texas Tribune.

First, the Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program must be designed. While its full cost analysis is still pending, operational and staffing expenses are expected to be around $20 million annually.

Next, the importation program must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has not authorized one application since former President Donald Trump authorized the safe importation of pharmaceuticals three years ago.

This opened up the closed distribution system in the U.S. to the possibility of allowing Canadian wholesalers to import drugs due to the country having a comparable drug track-and-trace system.

Nonetheless, Texas and other states interested in exercising their own discretion to bring Canadian medications in have struggled to do so. Florida even sued the FDA for the delay and for violating the Freedom of Information Act by allegedly not responding adequately to records requests.

President Joe Biden has also addressed the FDA’s pace and called for advancing the policy in 2021.

“It’s got to feel weird to see President Trump and President Biden on the same page … but it is so true,” said Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls) and chair of the Texas House Human Services Committee, according to The Texas Tribune.

Yet, with various issues in mind, Texas officials don’t anticipate the importation program to be ready until sometime next year.

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