Indian pharma may gain under Trump drug price reform plan

Trump was mainly taking aim at European countries through this provision, derisively calling their systems “socialist healthcare”.
Donald Trump
Donald Trump at MSNBC news channel

New York, July 28 : Indian pharmaceutical companies may be able to benefit from US President Donald Trump’s plan to reduce the prices of drugs that would allow individuals to import prescription medications directly.

This provision was one of several executive orders Trump has signed to lower the prices of medicines in the US, which are the highest in the world.

Under the order issued last week, individuals can get waivers to import prescription medications “provided such importation poses no additional risk to public safety and results in lower costs to American patients”.

Health Secretary Alex Azar explained that under the “personal importation” provision, the Food and Drug Administration will set up a system to allow the safe import from countries that have regulatory regimes comparable to the US.

The FDA has a presence in India to ensure that medicines made there “meet FDA’s safety and quality requirements”, according to the agency.

The order is scheduled to come into effect on August 24 and in the meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies can come up with proposals to cut costs of medications.

Azar suggested that a model for allowing individuals to import medicines would the system set up by Florida and some Native American tribes’ administrations for getting pharmaceuticals from Canada under previous Trump initiatives.

He said that injectible medicines and controlled drugs such as opioids would not be allowed for in under the personal importation programme.

India exports pharmaceuticals worth about $5.8 billion to the US every year, making it the single largest market.

Unveiling his order, Trump said, “For decades, our citizens have paid the highest prices for drugs – prescription drugs – anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close.”

The same medicines are sold with a much higher markup in the US.

“A pill that would cost $1 could be $7, $8 in our country. Same exact pill,” Trump said, mentioning Germany and Canada in particular.

A major step he has taken is requiring Medicare, the federal health insurance programme for seniors, to pay the lowest prices other countries pay.

Explaining its impact, Trump said that if some other country pays $1 and the US was paying $5, it will now pay only $1.

In reality “what’s going to happen is their number will go up, our number will come very substantially down, and we’ll all agree at two and a half or two or whatever the final number is,” he said.

One effect of this on countries like India is that prices of medications sold there by multinationals could be increased, if the US brings it into how the pricing mechanism is determined. However, India does not have a similar centralised government mechanism for drugs purchase like the US Medicare or those of some European countries.

Trump was mainly taking aim at European countries through this provision, derisively calling their systems “socialist healthcare”.

“We incredibly and foolishly bear the full cost of all research and development, which is massive, in all fairness to the drug companies.”

“It also means that the US taxpayers are effectively subsidising the socialist healthcare systems of foreign welfare states and many other countries.”

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

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