FDA Takes Actions to Help Lower Prescription Drug Prices

30 September 2020

GMP News

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took actions to help provide safe, effective, and more affordable drugs to American patients as part of the Safe Importation Action Plan, fulfilling the aspect of the July Executive Order on drug pricing to complete the rulemaking to allow states to import certain prescription drugs from Canada.

The final rule implements a provision of federal law that allows FDA-authorized programs to import 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 final guidance for industry 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 rule allows states (including the District of Columbia and territories), Indian tribes and — in certain future circumstances — pharmacists and wholesalers, to submit importation program proposals to the FDA for review and authorization. An importation program can be co-sponsored by a state, Indian tribe, pharmacist or wholesaler. Referred to as Section 804 Importation Programs, these programs will be managed by the respective sponsor and any co-sponsors and authorized by the FDA to facilitate the importation of certain prescription drugs that are approved in Canada and, with appropriate labeling, meet the conditions of an FDA-approved drug application. Eligible prescription drugs would have to be relabeled with the required U.S. labeling and undergo testing for authenticity, degradation and to ensure that the drugs meet established specifications and standards. These programs will also have to demonstrate significant cost reductions of the covered products to the American consumer.

The final guidance issued describes procedures for a drug manufacturer to obtain a National Drug Code (NDC) for certain FDA-approved prescription drugs, including biological products and combination products, that were originally manufactured and intended for sale in that foreign country. The use of an additional NDC for these products may allow greater flexibility for drug companies to offer these products at a lower price than what their current distribution contracts require. Prescription drugs, including biological products, imported under the pathway described in the final guidance could be available to patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals, health care providers’ offices or licensed pharmacies, and would include the FDA-approved labeling (including prescribing information).

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