Locals react to a plan to allow Americans to import cheaper drugs

Prescription drugs import plan

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -The high cost of some prescription drugs irks a lot of people and some locals weighed in on a Trump administration plan to allow Americans to legally import cheaper drugs from Canada and some other countries.

It didn’t take long to find people on New Orleans streets who are fed up with the cost of prescription medications.

"I believe prescription drug prices are very high,” said Tracy Mitchell.

Bob Trepagnier feels the same.

"Unusually high…when you have to take a greater portion of your revenue for drugs it’s a little out of hand,” Trepagnier said.

President Trump’s administration says it will set up a system whereby Americans will be able to legally access lower-cost drugs from Canada.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says patients will be able to import medications safely with oversight from the Food and Drug Administration. States, wholesalers, and pharmacists would be allowed to submit plans for pilot programs, outlining how they would import Health-Canada approved drugs.

And manufacturers of FDA-approved drugs would be permitted to import versions of approved drugs that they sell in foreign countries.

Trepagnier said he would have no qualms about purchasing drugs from Canada.

"Canada is not a Third World nation, so I trust what I would take,” he said.

Mitchell agrees.

"I think if it's being imported from Canada, if it goes through any type of quality control and the drug prices are cheaper than yes, I believe that's a positive thing,” Mitchell stated.

At Castellon Pharmacy in New Orleans, owner and pharmacist Scott Beninato knows what some customers go through when confronted with expensive drugs.

"We get people two and three times a week, [who say] we know you got low prices but insurance won’t pay for this, what’s your price? I say, even if I sell it to you at cost, which we do sometimes in certain situations, you’re still looking at $500 or $600, you know, they just can’t do it,” said Beninato.

He agrees that drug prices are too high, but is also concerned that the Trump administration’s plan could hurt pharmacies like his.

"We all wish that the prices could be lower but I think this is going to hurt the independent pharmacies because they’re going to get other stuff that they would normally get here,” Beninato said.

Already he gets questions from people who buy some drugs from outside the country.

"They get it from Canada, or they get it from India or something and then they come to us and ask questions. I say, I can’t answer that, I said you don’t deal here, you know you’re getting your meds someplace else. I’m not comfortable commenting on these kind of things,” said Beninato.

UNO health care economist Walter Lane, PhD., is not enamored with the president’s plan.

"That doesn't make any sense to me because the drug manufacturers send the drugs to Canada cheaply because the Canadian government negotiates lower prices,” said Lane.

He thinks there would be price repercussions.

"It’s only low prices in Canada because we're paying the high prices. If they're going to buy in Canada and ship to the United States the drug companies will just raise the price in Canada,” said Lane.

Beninato hopes the president can achieve drug price relief without hurting pharmacies.

"I fully support what he’s doing as far as trying to drive the prices. I would think maybe they could pass a law where they charge us what they charge the people in Canada to sell it. Some of these prices are just outrageous,” he said.

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