You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Commentary: Legalizing drug importation harms Texas’ patients, economy


President Donald Trump promises to help lower America’s prescription drug bills. How? By allowing patients to buy medicines from overseas pharmacies.

Though intended to help everyday Americans, legalizing drug importation would actually harm them. It would force American pharmacies to compete on a deeply uneven playing field. Foreign companies, benefiting from the socialist price controls of their home governments, could destroy middle-class jobs all over the country.

The policy shift would hit Texas particularly hard. The drug industry is a central pillar of our economy, contributing $52 billion to our annual economic output.

Today, drug firms support over 36,000 local jobs, which are generally high-skilled, immune to outsourcing and pay out middle-class wages that can support a family.

And this work can profoundly improve human life. For instance, Austin-based Xeris Pharmaceuticals just announced it raised $41 million to fund research into a new, cutting-edge treatment for hypoglycemia, a condition afflicting millions of diabetics. In total, Texas drug firms invest nearly $1 billion every year to finance some 3,000 clinical trials.

This industry would be put in jeopardy if drug importation were legalized. President Trump won the White House in large part because he promised to protect American workers from unfair foreign competition. Drug importation is unfair foreign competition at its worst.

Right now, federal law significantly restricts purchases of imported prescription medicines. Overturning those restrictions has obvious appeal: Drug prices in Canada and Western Europe are generally lower than they are here in America.

But medicines are cheaper in foreign markets because governments in those countries impose price controls. The Canadian government, for instance, sets low price ceilings on drugs sold through its national health program and fines companies for breaking them. British authorities tightly limit the profits drug companies can make through the National Health Service.

This socialist tinkering is strikingly similar to currency manipulation, the practice perfected by China, in which a country’s central government keeps its currency artificially weak to boost exports. President Trump has repeatedly denounced that abuse and rightly pointed out that it undermines American manufacturing.

He should take a similar stance here.

Legalizing importation would flood the domestic market with artificially cheap drugs. Texas firms wouldn’t stand a chance; they have to charge genuine market rates to cover the billions of dollars they typically have to spend to develop just one new medicine. A big slice of their customer base would switch over to cheap foreign drugs; sales would plummet; and they’d be forced to cut jobs and scale back new research.

There are better ways to drive down domestic drug prices that don’t put our economy at risk.

For starters, the White House and Congress should work together to reauthorize the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Passed in 1992, this law creates what amounts to user fees for the Food and Drug Administration. Drug companies have to pay a set amount every year to ensure the agency has the resources it needs to quickly and accurately assess new medicines. This legislation has helped usher over 1,500 new drugs into the American market, but the current iteration expires in September. Reauthorizing the Act would keep new medicines flowing and fuel competitive pressures in the drug market.

Next, as part of his effort to renegotiate America’s trade deals, the president should ensure that our trading partners respect intellectual property law. China, India and other major global economies routinely violate our patent protections and illegally produce generic knockoff medications. Beating back this abuse would force customers in those markets to pay fair prices and allow drug companies to reduce the prices they charge here at home.

Cutting drug prices by importing foreign medicines may sound promising. But it would expose Texas employers to unfair foreign competition and wipe out local jobs. And that’s no way to keep an economy like Texas’ great.

Kowalski is president and CEO of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Hunter: Like parts of politicians’ agenda? No need to embrace it all
Hunter: Like parts of politicians’ agenda? No need to embrace it all

When diehard Donald Trump supporters ask what you think of the president, they aren’t looking for a policy discussion. They want a thumbs up and maybe even a Make America Great Again hat to appear. The reverse is also true. When diehard Trump haters ask what you think of the president, they don’t want anything in-depth either. They want...
Commentary: Arkansas’ ‘assembly line’ executions raise issues of equity
Commentary: Arkansas’ ‘assembly line’ executions raise issues of equity

The nation has been treated this week to an unseemly spectacle: Arkansas has been champing at the bit to execute eight prisoners — in the style of an assembly line — in the first mass execution since the death penalty was restored in 1976. Opponents of the death penalty blasted the rush to death: The plan was to execute the eight over 11...
Herman: Proposal to require Texas lawmakers OK for state statue moves
Herman: Proposal to require Texas lawmakers OK for state statue moves

The battle over the University of Texas’ Jefferson Davis statue is over. So now we move on to the battle over the battle. And we all know where those are fought. Let’s say it all together: “Our State Capitol.” Quick background: The statue of the Confederate president stood (proudly in the eyes of some, disgracefully in the eyes...
John Young: Resistant to facts on climate? Wait – we have pictures
John Young: Resistant to facts on climate? Wait – we have pictures

The word is that Donald Trump isn’t much of a reader. Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam affirms this — that then-candidate Trump “struggled to read” when preparing for a dismal guest-hosting of SNL last year. That’s OK, Mr. President. Research finds a broad swath of our population, up to...
Commentary: Funds for Texas Gulf restoration are finally flowing
Commentary: Funds for Texas Gulf restoration are finally flowing

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded almost seven long years ago, but this month marks the first time the Gulf states —including Texas — will receive money from BP’s Deepwater Horizon 2016 settlement. In total, the state will ultimately receive nearly $1 billion that can be used for Gulf coast restoration from all the different...
More Stories