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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, joined by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., left, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, calling for an amendment to the Constitution aimed at curbing special interests' financial clout in elections. Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives returned to Capitol Hill today after a five-week vacation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Canada's drugs are cheaper than ours. Bernie Sanders wants to bring them here.


Canada's drugs are cheaper than ours. Bernie Sanders wants to bring them here.

WATCH | A pair of EpiPens costs about twice as much in the U.S. as they do in Canada. Dozens of other drugs are significantly cheaper across the northern border, but it's currently illegal for Americans to buy them. Bernie Sanders is leading the push to change that. 

Life saving drugs are too expensive 

This week, 31 senators signed a letter to the CEO of Virginia-based Kaléo Pharmaceuticals, demanding to know why the price of the company's Envizio injectors, used to treat opioid overdoses, has increased by over 600 percent since 2014. 

Other life-saving drugs like the EpiPen, have become unaffordable in the U.S., but the same medicine is significantly cheaper in Canada because the government there can negotiate on the prices. 

Bernie Sanders wants to change that 

The Vermont senator is leading the charge to open the northern border to FDA approved drugs, and the idea is getting support from Republicans too. 

Last month, Sanders introduced a bill to allow imports of Canadian drugs. Twelve Republican Senators, including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, voted in favor of the bill, but it was blocked by 13 Democrats who were concerned about safety standards for the drugs. 

Do you think the U.S. should import drugs from Canada?

If at first you don't succeed... 

Sanders is working with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) -- who both voted against the first bill -- on a revamped version of the legislation.

The new bill would allow Americans to purchase drugs from certified foreign sellers approved by the U.S. government as meeting certain safety standards. 

Which drugs are safe? 

If the legislation is passed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with the Food and Drug Administration would have to come up with a system to verify which drugs and pharmacies are safe for Americans to buy from. 

Jodi Dart, a spokeswoman for Prescription Justice Action Group, a nonprofit that supports drug imports, explained that the FDA could even end up working with a private company like PharmacyChecker.com to certify safe and legal drugs for import.

Will it succeed in the long term?

Critics worry that importing drugs will only be a short-term solution and even drug import advocates admit that it's not a perfect plan, but it's better than nothing. 

"The best policy actually would be to lower prices here domestically, but Americans are already importing medication for personal use," Dart said. "Legalizing that lifeline of affordable medication is just the right thing to do." 

Wide support

But for all the critics, the majority of Americans say they want to allow drug imports. 

A September poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71 percent of American favor allowing drug imports from across the northern border. 

Allowing Medicare to negotiate 

One way to do that would be for Congress to pass legislation, or President Trump to sign an executive order allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices. 

Trump has said he is open to that idea, but his new HHS Secretary Tom Price has opposed legislation to do just that in the past. 

Trump and Trudeau

Trump is expected to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next week and drug imports could be on the table for discussion. 

They are expected to talk about trade deals, including renegotiation the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

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