AARP Report Supports Use of Imported Prescription Drugs
The use of imported prescription drugs in the European Union has reduced costs and has not compromised safety or disrupted supplies, according to an AARP report released on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/23).
For the report, researchers from the AARP Public Policy Institute examined E.U. nations that import prescription drugs between wholesalers (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 6/23). The report involved 15 nations -- which included Britain, France, Germany and Greece -- and found no significant reports of counterfeit medications as a result of prescription drug importation.
Imported prescription drugs also remained traceable as they moved from nation to nation, the report found. The report also found no evidence that the use of prescription drugs imported from lower-cost to higher-cost nations decreased pharmaceutical industry profits to the point where companies reduced development of new medications (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/23).
In addition, the report found "no widespread evidence of shortages" in supply related to the use of imported prescription drugs, although "anecdotal reports" of shortages were found in France, Greece, Italy and Spain. The report also said, "Some incidents ... relating to repackaging, relabeling and consumer leaflet content of parallel imports have been reported" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/22).
The report recommended that Congress legalize the use of imported prescription drugs in the United States.
Report lead author Panos Kanavos of the London School of Economics said that wholesalers, rather than public health care systems, benefited most from the reduced costs related to the use of imported prescription drugs. However, Kanavos said that the United States could limit the profits of wholesalers to address the issue.
AARP CEO William Novelli said, "It is no longer a question of whether we should allow the importation of drugs from abroad. It is already happening in a very big way. We need to legalize this and make sure that a system is in place to guarantee safety" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/23).
He added, "No one wants to break the law, but the power of the economy is hard to resist. We need to legalize (drug importation) and give the FDA the resources to control it and ensure safety" (Washington Times, 6/23). According to Novelli, "Once we make importation legal, we can make it safe. Once safe, we can lower prices" (CongressDaily, 6/23).
However, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Vice President Ken Johnson said that FDA, the U.S. surgeon general and the HHS secretary "under both the Clinton and Bush administrations all agree that there is no way to guarantee the safety of imported drugs under the current system," adding, "Why put our seniors at risk?" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/23).
The Seniors Coalition, which opposes the use of imported prescription drugs, on Wednesday held a press conference to criticize the AARP report (CQ HealthBeat, 6/22).
According to the Inquirer, AARP support for a bill that would legalize the use of imported prescription drugs could prove "crucial" to passage of such legislation this year (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/23).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.