Background

For decades, Americans with access to Canada have been traveling to brick-and-mortar Canadian pharmacies to fill their prescriptions.

Since 1999, elected officials would often take buses of constituents across the border to buy prescription medications. In fact, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) organized numerous bus trips and were viewed as leaders of the effort to help Americans access safe and affordable prescription medications from Canada.

Many other elected officials followed their lead, including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Former Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), among others. Many others have fought tirelessly for the right of Americans to access safe and affordable prescription medications, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, among others.

While bus tours originated in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, many other bus tours soon started in other states including Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. Some physicians in U.S. border towns even obtained licenses that allowed them to prescribe medications in Canada.

These trips were worth it – consumers were paying up to 81 percent more for their medications in the U.S. compared to what they would pay in Canada based on the 10 most widely-prescribed prescription drugs, according to a Congressional Research Service study. Americans now spend on average $1,000 per person each year on prescription medications, which is approximately 40 percent more compared to prescription medication spending by Canadians. Over the past several decades, prescription drug prices have continued to skyrocket and the trend does not seem to be slowing or ceasing any time soon.

Many of the same Congressional champions continue to fight for personal prescription importation today, facing intense resistance from a powerful Big Pharma lobby. The pharmaceutical industry continues to be among the most profitable public businesses in the United States, and the majority of these companies spend more on marketing than on researching and developing new treatments and cures.

The Internet has expanded access to licensed, legitimate online pharmacies for Americans who don’t live close to the U.S.-Canadian border. For more than 15 years, millions of Americans have imported their personal prescriptions from Canada and saved between 50-80 percent on the cost of their medications.

We will continue fighting for the rights of Americans to access safe and affordable prescription medication.

Sources:
“Bargain Drug Prices Spark Border Crossings”, LA Times, Elizabeth Mehren, December 4, 2000
“Jaunts Across the Border Best Prescription for High Drug Prices”, Pew Charitable Trusts, Maureen Cosgrove, September 26, 2000
“Why do Americans spend so much on pharmaceuticals?”, PBS Newshour, Valerie Paris, OECD, February 7, 2014
“Big Pharmaceutical companies are spending far more on marketing than research”, Washington Post, Ana Swanson, February 11, 2015