Why Stop at Reimporting Canadian Drugs? Come Clean and Reimport the Whole System

I was a bit surprised to see a number of otherwise sensible people, including Glenn Reynolds, come out in support of a bill that would make it legal for Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canadian pharamacies where some medicines (though not all) are cheaper than in the United States.

Canada has lower drug prices for two reasons — a) Canada’s drug approval agencies typically take 18 to 24 months longer to approve drugs than in the United States and Canada often refuses to approve drugs that work great but are deemed too expensive and b) Canada, like most industrialized nations, imposes price controls on drugs. The government tells a pharmaceutical companies point blank how much it can charge for medicine.

So some Americans buy medicine from Canadian pharamcies becauses it is cheaper, just as some Canadians come to the United States to purchase medications that aren’t on the Canadian formulary.

I don’t really want to debate which system is preferable, but I don’t think it is too much to ask for a little consistency. If Canadian price controls are really such a great idea, Reynolds and other supporters of reimportation should take the next logical step and advocate for reimporting Canada’s entire regulatory system of drug price controls.

If it’s okay for the Canadian government to tell a company it can’t charge more than $2 per pill and it’s okay for American consumers to then reimport those drugs at $2 per pill, then why not cut out the middleman and have the American government tell drug companies they can only charge $2 per pill?

If price controls are Reynold’s idea of “promoting competition,” why not promote a little competiton stateside?


Instapundit. Glenn Reynolds, July 18, 2002.

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