Trudeau says he will 'take into account' U.S. drug import plans but will put Canadians first

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes a speech in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 24, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that while he is willing to entertain demands from the United States for Canadian medications, he would put the nation’s needs first.

In a bid to lower drug prices, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday finalized a plan that includes a measure allowing states to purchase medicines from Canada.

It is a move that Trudeau and Canadian distributors have opposed in the past.

“Our priority will always be to ensure an adequate and safe supply for Canadians first and foremost,” Trudeau said at a news conference, when asked about the U.S. plan.

But he added that “any moves by the United States will be taken into account” as the country builds up its pharmaceutical capacity during the coronavirus pandemic, and added that Canada would “be there to help other countries in need as well.”

Reuters reported last year here that Canada opposed U.S. plans to import drugs, based on talking points for Canadian officials obtained through a freedom of information request.

A government source said on Friday that Canada’s message to the White House and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been that importing drugs from Canada will not have any significant impact on prices or access for Americans.

At least ten U.S. states, including Florida, have passed or proposed laws to allow such imports from Canada, and as of Friday there is federal approval.

Some of Canada’s major distributors are subsidiaries of U.S. companies, who are unlikely to participate in a program to lower prices, since their revenue reflects a cut of the value of the drugs they provide to pharmacies in the much larger U.S. market.

Reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, Allison Martell in Toronto; Writing by Allison Martell and Steve Scherer; Editing by Alistair Bell and Matthew Lewis