Assembly Approves Bill To Create Prescription Drug Reimportation Web Site
The Assembly on Wednesday voted 48-17 to approve a bill (AB 1957) that would create a state Web site to help residents purchase lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. Under the bill, sponsored by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), the Department of Health Services would develop a Web site by July 1, 2005, that would list prices in California and Canada for the 50 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs. The site also would include links to Canadian pharmacies licensed by a Canadian province, meet state pharmacy standards and sell only medications approved by the Therapeutic Products Directorate of Health Canada (Lawrence, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/27). In addition, the bill would require the state to post a warning to consumers about foreign pharmacies that have records of selling counterfeit drugs and engaging in other illegal sales practices (Salladay/Rau, Los Angeles Times, 5/27). Frommer said that state residents currently purchase prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies online, adding that "[a]ll this bill does is allow Californians to know that the pharmacies they are dealing with are reputable and safe." However, opponents said the bill might not include adequate safeguards against the reimportation of dangerous or inadequate medications and would "endorse breaking the law," the AP/Mercury News reports (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/27).
The vote on the measure coincided with the approval on Wednesday of four other Assembly bills on prescription drugs and followed the approval in the Senate of eight bills concerning the pharmaceutical industry (Los Angeles Times, 5/27). Summaries of some bills are provided below.
- The Assembly on Wednesday approved a bill (AB 1958) that would allow CalPERS to form a consortium of small businesses, not-for-profit organizations and individuals to purchase prescription drugs at bulk rates.
- The Assembly on Wednesday approved a bill (AB 1959) intended to help guarantee that state programs receive the best prices for prescription drugs (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 5/27). The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), would require CalPERS and other state health programs to share with the chairs of the Assembly and Senate budget committees the details of their contracts with drug companies -- which currently are confidential. The committee chairs would have access to the information only "under an oath of secrecy" (California Healthline, 2/13).
- The Assembly on Wednesday also approved a bill (AB 2326) that would require the state to issue a report card on the cost, safety and effectiveness of various prescription drugs (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/27).
- The Senate on Tuesday approved a separate bill (SB 1333) that would require the state to consider purchasing prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/27). The bill would apply to prescription drugs for beneficiaries of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and Medi-Cal (Los Angeles Times, 5/27).
Several of the bills passed in the two chambers this week are similar; Democratic lawmakers will decide which legislation to move through the other house of the Legislature. Although all the measures "face fierce lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry," there may be sufficient support in the Legislature to pass "some form of prescription drug reform," the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/27). Ashley Snee, a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said the governor does not comment on pending legislation but added that he is concerned both about the cost of prescription drugs and the legal ramifications of reimportation for California, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 5/27). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.