The U.S. drug lobby, and many other groups, oppose this importation, claiming that consumer savings would be minor and that imported drugs would not meet the same safety standards as those sold in the United States. Furthermore, recent commentary suggests that legalizing Canadian importation would exacerbate the opioid crisis in the U.S. by expanding access and lowering the costs of prescription opioids.
These concerns are unjustified and in some cases just self‐interested scare mongering. The crucial question about legalizing importation, implicit in the industry’s opposition, is its possible effect on drug innovation in the United States.
The safety concern is easy to dismiss. Innumerable goods flow across the U.S.-Canada border every day, with little evidence of unsafe imports. U.S. consumers and their doctors have ample incentive to order from reputable Canadian suppliers, who in turn have no incentive to kill off their paying customers. Canadian drugs already flow across the border to some degree, with minimal examples of adverse consequences.
Whether the cost savings from this importation would be large depends on multiple factors, such as how the Canadian government adjusts its price controls, and how U.S. drug makers change their distribution and pricing policies. If safety concerns are minimal, however, any cost savings are valuable even if modest.