As I watched the end of Hannity & Colmes tonight I saw an announcement for an upcoming story about prescription drugs. The announcer said that some states were considering a new option for lowering the prices on prescription drugs. One of those states is my home state of North Dakota.
Senator Dorgan, a Democrat and one of my representatives in congress, has an online petition going meant to garner support for opening up the American prescription drug market to competition from Canadian drug companies.
Senator Dorgan is calling his program the Prairie Prescriptions Pilot Project. His plan would allow licensed pharmacists to purchase FDA-approved drugs from suppliers in Canada. Canadian drugs are, on average, far lower in price than their American counterparts. In fact, many North Dakotans already make special trips into Canada for the express purpose of purchasing prescription drugs.
Allowing Canadian drug companies to compete in this manner would almost assuredly cause American drug companies to lower their prices. This would mean that average citizens would have easier access to drugs at a more reasonable price.
So what's the downside? Well, may will probably say that we'd be sending our money across the border never to see it return. That's not exactly true. I'd be willing to wager that the people who are saving money on prescription drugs aren't exactly going to be stuffing that saved money into mattresses. They'll likely invest it or spend it on things other than drugs which means some of the loot the drug companies are currently hoarding will be spread around a little bit. That's not such a bad thing.
Plus, the amount of drugs that would actually be purchased from Canada remains to be seen. I'd expect that if Senator Dorgan were to get his way American drug companies would respond by making their prices competitive with those from Canada. So a lot of the prescription drug business would likely stay in-country any way.
The way I see it, this plan has a lot of potential and not a lot of negatives. The only change I would make in Senator Dorgan's plan would be to make the program available to the entire nation, not just North Dakota.