They are a lot cheaper. A couple of examples: Daraprim, the antiparasitic drug whose price was raised by Mr. Shkreli to nearly $750 per pill, sells for a little more than $2 overseas. The cancer drug Cosmegen is priced at $1,400 or more per injection here, as opposed to about $20 to $30 overseas. Would the pharmaceutical companies offer the drugs at these low oversea prices if they were not making money on them?
But buying drugs made overseas is virtually impossible. Yet, the law does, in fact, make it possible. Under a provision of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the FDA can allow drug imports whenever they are deemed safe and capable of saving Americans money. Further, 25% or more of drugs labeled American-made are actually manufactured in other countries, in plants inspected by the F.D.A. (So are 80 percent of the active ingredients used in the production of drugs in American factories.) In actuality, the “imports” that the industry refers to are the same pills as those “American-made” drugs, produced by the same F.D.A.-inspected plants overseas.