An old adage says that sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease. Unfortunately for Canadians, when Americans choose a remedy for their public policy ills, we are often the ones that suffer the nasty side-effects … and now Europeans may be the next victims. What’s worse is that the Americans themselves are being sold snake-oil.

Building on the work of Professor Brian Ferguson (Drug Re-importation in North America and Europe: An overview), AIMS President Brian Lee Crowley’s Commentary, A Pill Too Hard to Swallow, warns a European audience of the pitfalls in schemes to re-import pharmaceuticals into the United States.

Three key conclusions are clear: first, America does have problems regarding insurance coverage for prescription drugs, but re-importation (also known as parallel imports) from Europe (or Canada) is not going to solve them; second, any American schemes for large-scale re-importation could have significant negative effects on the drug marketplace of the source country; third, drug re-importation transfers wealth away from the companies who develop tomorrow’s blockbuster pharmaceuticals and into the hands of middlemen – consumers do not benefit from lower prices, and they lose in terms of access to new and better drugs when the pool of funds available for research and development shrinks.

However, Europe’s ability to effectively criticize any American drug re-importation plan is hindered by the fact that such behaviour is permitted now within the European Union. As Crowley writes: “The strongest and easiest to defend position is that parallel imports are misconceived and wrong in principle, not that they are good for Europeans, but bad if America wants to get into the game, which is the position you seem to be trying to defend today.”

To read the complete Commentary, click here.