Whenever the spotlight falls on an expensive drug, some policymakers will point to drug re-importation as a potential solution: If a drug is too expensive here, let patients import them from Canada, where drug prices are much lower.
In America, importation can be the last resort for patients burdened by high drug prices. But in countries around the world, it may be the only way a patient can access lifesaving drugs that have not been cleared for use, or whose government-run health system may simply refuse to cover.
America’s drug pricing problem is different from Europe’s, but they both stem from overregulation. Wherever the government interferes with a market, we see a decrease in choice and innovation, and an increase in prices. Competition, spurred by a restoration of free markets, is the key to providing relief for patients at home and abroad.
Markets keep prices low by encouraging innovation and competition. When there are several competing products on the shelves, to stay competitive, companies need to improve their products while cutting prices. This is why, almost four decades after the first laptop was released with a price tag of almost $2,000, you can walk into a Best Buy and choose between 15 laptops that fit your needs and cost less than $500.
Dr. Tom Coburn is the Nick Ohnell Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a former two-term U.S. Senator from Oklahoma.