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FDA sent shock waves through the pharmaceutical industry Thursday (July 19) by announcing it will study how to import drugs as a response to price spikes. The directive, coming despite FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s previous criticism of importation, appears to have come from HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who in June also called importation a “gimmick” that wouldn’t save money and proposed an alternative solution to price spikes.

All three top drug industry trade groups swiftly criticized the plan. While they reiterated their long-stated criticisms of importation — that it wouldn’t be safe and wouldn’t save money — one drug industry lobbyist said the plan is most concerning because the government will now be judging the reasonableness of price increases. Advocates for drug reimportation believe they may now have an opening to push wider reimportation — a proposal which has been opposed by both Republican and Democratic administrations, despite having bipartisan support in Congress.

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