Assembly Health Committee Chair Says He Will Introduce Bill To Reimport Prescription Drugs
Assembly Health Committee chair Dario Frommer (D-Los Feliz) at a hearing Tuesday said that he will introduce legislation calling for the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under Frommer's plan:
- California would create a Web site that would direct users to state-approved Canadian pharmacies (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 1/21).
- State agencies that serve low-income people, state employees and prisoners would determine if they could save money by reimporting prescription drugs from Canada (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 1/21).
- The attorney general would consider beginning an antitrust investigation into drug companies that restrict supplies to Canadian pharmacies that sell to U.S. residents.
- The state would lobby the federal government to enact laws that allow U.S. pharmacists to reimport prescription drugs from Canada (Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 1/20).
Frommer said that he intends to introduce his reimportation legislative package within a week, the Bee reports.
According to the Bee, state legislators are considering reimportation in part because they are "[a]nxious to avoid" Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed funding cuts for state programs, including Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, and believe that reimportation could save the state "hundreds of millions of dollars" (Sacramento Bee, 1/21). Frommer said that prescription drug spending under Medi-Cal was $2.9 billion in 2003 and is projected to reach $3.8 billion in 2004. He added that California "should join ... other states in looking for solutions" (Los Angeles Times, 1/21). Officials from Illinois and Minnesota -- both of which have approved prescription drug reimportation programs -- testified at the hearing (California Healthline, 1/20). Brenda Holman, a regional director for the FDA, testified that the agency has "grave concerns" about the safety of prescription drugs sold over the Internet, including those purchased directly from Canadian pharmacies even if certified by the state, the Bee reports. "Right now we are reluctant to consider approving anything outside" the United States, she added. Ashley Snee, a spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, said that it is too soon to comment on Frommer's proposal, adding, "In terms of the drug reimportation issue at this point, there are some challenges. There are legal as well as quality control issues to consider" (Sacramento Bee, 1/21). Merrill Jacobs, the Sacramento lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that he could not comment on Frommer's legislation because drug companies were not invited to the hearing, adding that reimportation is a "complex issue" (Los Angeles Times, 1/21).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.