Consumer Advocates Testify Before Task Force on Reimportation of Prescription Drugs
The federal government could ensure the safety of prescription drugs imported to the United States from other nations by "inspecting foreign production plans, licensing wholesale importers and tracking shipments from factory to pharmacy," consumer advocates testified on Friday at the first of six "listening sessions" held by the Task Force on Drug Importation as part of a study on the safety of the practice, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 3/20). The study is required by the new Medicare law. The task force, the members of which HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced last week, can consult with other federal officials and will hold the listening sessions to discuss the issue of reimportation with consumer advocates, health care purchasers, providers, health care industry representatives, international stakeholders and the public (California Healthline, 3/17). The Bush administration has "strenuously opposed drug imports, saying they pose an unacceptable risk to consumers," the New York Times reports (New York Times, 3/20).
At the session on Friday, Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis for Consumers Union, said, "There is a growing recognition that not being able to afford needed prescription drugs is a threat to the health of the American people. There are tens of thousands of deaths a year because people are not getting the needed drugs" (Kemper, Los Angeles Times, 3/20). She added, "It's a reality now, because the United States government has failed to develop a model that assures drugs are affordable to Americans" (Sherman, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/20). Peter Wyckoff, executive director of the Minnesota Senior Federation, which since 1995 has organized trips for state residents to purchase prescription drugs from Canada, said, "The issue is not about drug importation, it is not about prescription drug safety. The issue is about the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans" (Los Angeles Times, 3/20). David Certner, director of federal affairs for AARP, added, "Individuals are already doing this on their own. It would be far better to establish a safe regime for imports." He said that the FDA Web site should list "approved pharmacies" that could supply U.S. residents with safe prescription drugs from other nations (New York Times, 3/20).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.