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US federal law for pharmaceutical drug tracking will follow the supply chain where state laws stop short

The bipartisan push to lower drug prices in the United States (both Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump have made the issue a priority) has latched onto importing drugs from Canada, where drug prices are significantly lower than in the U.S.

Several states have already passed legislation allowing some patients to import certain drugs from Canada, including Vermont, Colorado and Florida, but the solution has several flaws and criticisms that might end up derailing the option.

The idea of importing drugs from Canada into the United States fails to consider how the global drug supply chain operates. Drug manufacturers typically produce drugs for the global market and negotiate prices with the leading authority in each market, so drugs sold in Canada are not necessarily manufactured in Canada. If U.S. citizens or organizations were to buy drugs in Canada and ship them to the U.S., drug companies would respond by limiting shipments to Canada, suing in U.S. federal court or perhaps raising prices.

The current debate is about drug prices and states versus the federal government, but the larger issue is supply chain security and compliance.

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