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Trump Health Care Plan Would Allow Drug Importation; Industry Opposes

Donald Trump 1Boston, MA, March 3, 2016 ― David Nather reports on STAT that Donald Trump released a health care plan Wednesday that includes common Republican ideas for replacing Obamacare but departs from conventional GOP policies in one major way: it would allow the reimportation of cheaper drugs from overseas.

Nather reports that this is the second time that front-runner Trump has embraced an idea to bring down drug costs that’s associated more with Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders than with the party he’s trying to lead.

Trump has previously said that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices, which is also a centerpiece of the Clinton and Sanders plans to bring down drug prices.  That idea doesn’t appear anywhere in the health care plan he released Wednesday.

However, the last provision of his new seven-point plan is: “Remove barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable, and cheaper products.”

“Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America,” Trump’s plan says.  “Though the pharmaceutical industry is in the private sector, drug companies provide a public service.  Allowing consumers access to imported, safe, and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.”

The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) oppose importation of drugs.

“Importing prescription medications can be risky,” PhRMA states on its website.  “The prevalence of counterfeit drugs is soaring overseas, growing 118% in 2008 alone.  A patient taking a counterfeit medication may not be getting the correct dose or may not be getting any real medicine at all.  Especially for patients facing cancer or other life-threatening diseases, the consequences of counterfeit drugs are frightening to contemplate.”

PhRMA continues:

“Beyond the risk of counterfeit drugs, imported medicines present additional hazards. In the U.S., pharmaceutical manufacturers are held to high standards in all phases of production. The FDA routinely inspects pharmaceutical manufacturing plants to ensure compliance with the agency’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

“To protect the American public, the FDA requires that prescription drugs in the U.S. be shown to be both safe and effective prior to being sold.  Throughout the drug approval process, pharmaceutical manufacturers must prove that they can consistently produce medications of expected strength, quality, and purity.

“The FDA also reviews labeling to ensure healthcare professionals and patients have the information necessary to understand a drug’s risks and proper use.”

The FDA also identifies a range of potential problems associated with imported medicines:

For Nather’s full STAT story, click here.  Follow Nather on Twitter @DavidNather.

Follow STAT — which reports from the frontiers of health and medicine — on Twitter @statnews.