An old idea for a short-cut to cheaper medicines in the US seems to be gaining momentum in 2019. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, among others, have expressed support for the importation of lower-cost Canadian drugs to the US, and a number of states have introduced legislation. Eighty percent of Americans favour imports from Canada to lower drug costs. Canadians should be wondering what this all means for them.

The policy implications could be serious. If significant amounts of Canadian pharmaceuticals were being diverted to US markets as American politicians are promising, Canada’s supplies wouldn’t last for long. If drugs were simply passing through Canada, promises regarding the safety of drugs for consumption in the US could not be upheld. Regardless, the result could mean chaos for the current pricing regimes in North America and for existing drug markets and regulations.

Again, this is not a new idea. Canada’s former health minister, Ujjal Dosanjh, warned back in 2005 that “Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States of America”. But with a significant amount of bipartisan support, the issue needs to be taken seriously.

On October 1, 2019, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute convened a high-level expert panel for a robust discussion of the issue and potential Canadian responses.


  • Shabbir Safdar, Executive Director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines
  • Ujjal Dosanjh, former Canadian Minister of Health
  • Brian Ferguson, Professor of Economics, Guelph University
  • Seema Nagpal, Vice President, Science and Policy, Diabetes Canada
  • Joelle Walker, Vice President, Public Affairs, Canadian Pharmacists Association
  • Wayne Critchley, Senior Associate, Global Public Affairs (moderator)

A few photos from the event can be seen below. Our photo gallery can be found here.

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