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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration is moving forward on the traditionally Democratic policy of importing prescription drugs from abroad, but the impact — if the proposals are actually finalized — could be pretty muted.

The big picture: While importation could help some patients afford their drugs, the policy overall is an attempt to take advantage of other countries' lower drug prices while avoiding taking direct action to limit prices in the U.S.

Details: HHS announced 2 pathways for drug importation yesterday. The first — which is a more traditional form of importation — would allow patients to import certain drugs to from Canada.

  • Notable exceptions are biologics — including insulin — controlled substances and intravenously injected drugs.
  • States, wholesalers and pharmacies would submit demonstration proposals to HHS, which would be time-limited and subject to safety and cost conditions.

Between the lines: This will likely take years to implement, although several states have already expressed interest in taking advantage of it.

Yes, but: There's a lot of reasons to be skeptical about its impact — especially because Canada doesn't have large quantities of drugs compared to the U.S. supply and it's not thrilled about the idea of sending them to us.

  • But still, "this rule could have a lot of impact in specific cases, such as with single-source drugs in rare diseases where there is a massive disparity between Canadian and U.S. prices," conservative health wonk Avik Roy tweeted.

The second pathway would allow drugmakers to import versions of FDA-approved drugs that they're selling in other countries, or to sell the same drug at a different price in the U.S. by working around their contracts with supply chain middlemen.

  • It appears to address complaints by drug companies:, according to HHS' outline of its plan. But "it’s not clear to me why manufacturers would want to do that," said Vanderbilt's Stacie Dusetzina.

The other side: "Rather than surrender the safety of Americans by importing failed polices from single-payer countries, we should work on solutions here at home that would lower patient out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter," said Steve Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, in a statement.

The bottom line: "By definition, importing is not going to be a large-scale solution," Dusetzina said.

Go deeper

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

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