Dorgan Introduces Revised Version of Prescription Drug Reimportation Bill
Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on Wednesday introduced a revised version of a bipartisan bill that would allow the reimportation of lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations, CongressDaily reports. The bill, which combines provisions from two separate bills introduced last year, was revised to eliminate potential trade and other problems that had prompted Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to oppose the legislation (CongressDaily, 2/9).
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Nev.) also support the revised bill. Dorgan said he and Snowe revised the bill after a report released by HHS in late 2004 concluded that the cost of efforts to ensure the safety of reimported prescription drugs would offset savings from the practice. Reps. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and JoAnn Emerson (R-Mo.) plan to introduce companion legislation in the House (CQ HealthBeat, 2/10).
The bill that Dorgan introduced last year would have allowed U.S. residents to reimport as much as a 90-day supply of prescription drugs from FDA-approved Canadian pharmacies for personal use. After 90 days, the legislation would have allowed licensed pharmacists and prescription drug wholesalers to reimport medications from Canada. In addition, U.S. residents who travel to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland or current European Union nations could have returned with as much as a 90-day supply of prescription drugs for personal use.
After one year, pharmacists and wholesalers could have reimported medications from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland or EU nations that were members as of Jan. 1, 2003. Pharmacists and wholesalers that reimport prescription drugs would have had to register with FDA; pay fees of as much as 1% of the price of the medications to fund the cost of additional federal inspectors and customs agents; and track and document the chain of custody of medications from manufacturer to consumer (California Healthline, 1/27).
The revised bill would delay the provision to allow personal reimportation of prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies until 90 days after enactment. In addition, the revised legislation would "phase in FDA review of notices of the foreign versions of FDA-approved drugs to determine if they are the same or different than existing drugs approved for use," CQ HealthBeat reports.
Dorgan said that the revised bill has adequate support to pass in the Senate. "When the Senate votes on this issue ... the Senate will stand with the American consumer," Dorgan said. McCain said that the revised cost estimate for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit "will add new pressure for us to pass this (drug importation) legislation" (CQ HealthBeat, 2/10).
According to CongressDaily, the revised Medicare cost estimate "could give a boost" to the bill, but "it remains unclear" whether the legislation "can overcome the opposition" of President Bush; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.); and the pharmaceutical industry (CongressDaily, 2/9).
In related news, Pfizer and Microsoft on Wednesday filed 17 lawsuits in New York against Internet groups that sell fraudulent versions of prescription drugs, the Washington Post reports.
Marc Brotman, an attorney for Pfizer, said that about 25% of Internet spam is related to prescription drugs and that the two companies partnered to combine their legislative resources. Fraudulent versions of medications such as Viagra and Lipitor often are sold at low prices on the Internet, with no prescription required, by companies not regulated to sell such treatments, the Post reports (Krim, Washington Post, 2/10).