The Canadian government blocked a U.S. proposal to export lower cost prescription drugs into the United States just as the Food and Drug Administration green-lighted the program. File Photo by frolicsomepl/Pixabay
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. drug wholesalers who want to import Canadian prescription drugs starting Monday were blocked by a preemptive move last week by Canada's health ministry.
On Friday, Canada moved to block the export of drugs intended for the Canadian market citing the risk of drug shortages.
"Canada is a small market, representing 2% of global drug sales, that sources 68% of its drugs internationally," a statement from Health Canada said. "The need for vigilance in maintaining the national drug supply continues."
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration's final rule went into effect, allowing Canadian drugs to be imported for sale by states, Indian tribes, pharmacists and wholesalers after President Donald Trump pushed the measure forward in a July executive order.
But Canadian health officials said they would prohibit drug exports without paperwork showing that sending drugs to the United States wouldn't cause a shortage.
"Our healthcare system is a symbol of our national identity and we are committed to defending it," Patty Hajdu, minister of health said. "The actions we are taking ... will help protect Canadians' access to the medication they rely on."
Since 2017, 44% of all marketed drugs in Canada have been in shortage status at least once, a situation made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government said.
Patients report that drug prices have increased in the past four years, an April Gallup and West Health survey of 1,000 U.S. residents showed.
In June, a study from JAMA Network Open showed that about 2% of Americans already buy prescription drugs from overseas.
Several states including Florida and Oregon have already tried and failed to set up import programs with Canadian drug makers, after pushback from large pharmaceutical companies.