Today, President Trump, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that, if finalized, would allow for the importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada. In addition, the Administration is announcing the availability of a new draft guidance for industry that describes procedures drug manufacturers can follow to facilitate importation of prescription drugs, including biological products, that are FDA-approved, manufactured abroad, authorized for sale in any foreign country, and originally intended for sale in that foreign country.
The NPRM issued today is the first step in implementing a provision of federal law that would allow for the importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada under specific conditions that ensure the importation poses no additional risk to the public’s health and safety while achieving a significant reduction in the cost of covered products to the American consumer. The draft guidance issued today describes procedures for a drug manufacturer to submit documentation that demonstrates that the product offered for import from any foreign country is, in fact, an FDA-approved drug product, including that it is manufactured in accordance with the FDA-approved application.
“Today’s announcement outlines two pathways for the safe importation of certain prescription drugs to help provide safe, effective, more affordable drugs to American patients,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “These are historic actions by HHS and the FDA, and they represent the bold nature of President Trump’s agenda for lowering drug costs. The President has recognized the opportunity to lower costs for American patients through safe importation, and we at HHS and FDA are delivering on that possibility through a safe, commonsense approach.”
The NPRM would allow states and certain other non-federal government entities to submit importation program proposals to the FDA for review and authorization. An importation program could be co-sponsored by a pharmacist, a wholesaler, or another state or non-federal governmental entity. Referred to as Section 804 Importation Programs, these programs would be authorized by the FDA to manage the importation of certain prescription drugs that are approved in Canada and also meet the conditions in an FDA-approved drug application. Eligible prescription drugs would have to be relabeled with the required U.S. labeling prior to importation and undergo testing for authenticity, degradation, and to ensure that the drugs meet established specifications and standards. Notably, these programs would also have to demonstrate significant cost reductions to the American consumer.
“The FDA continues to assess and act on multiple opportunities to promote competition that can, in turn, help reduce drug prices and improve access to medicines for Americans,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir. “The proposed rule and draft guidance include procedures intended to protect the public’s health and safety. We look forward to receiving public comment on these draft policies, and we will take timely comments into account as we work to finalize the rule and guidance. Our ultimate goal is to provide a robust program that clearly lays out procedures to import drugs that could provide lower prices while also maintaining the high quality Americans expect.”
Of note, the draft guidance describes procedures drug manufacturers could follow to obtain an additional National Drug Code (NDC) for certain FDA-approved prescription drugs, including biological products, that were originally manufactured, and intended to be marketed, in a foreign country. The use of an additional NDC would allow greater flexibility for drug companies to offer these products at a lower price than what their current distribution contracts require.
The draft guidance also recommends that the drug manufacturer include a statement on the product’s label and in the prescribing information to assist pharmacists to accurately identify, dispense and bill for these products. Prescription drugs, including biological products, imported under the pathway described in the draft guidance could be available to patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals, health care providers’ offices, or licensed U.S. pharmacies, and would include the FDA-approved labeling (including prescribing information).