Drug Reimportation Debated Prior to Lawmaker Action
A congressional staff briefing on Monday by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America addressed drug reimportation "in anticipation that lawmakers will try to legalize low-cost drug purchases from abroad by attaching it to must-pass legislation," CongressDaily reports.
At the briefing, titled "Know the Threat Behind Importation," Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner, criticized a bill sponsored by Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that would allow reimportation from certain nations.
Pitts said, "The propositions it puts forward relative to how importation could be done safely, in my opinion, absolutely don't cut the mustard and don't take into account what's happening on a global level."
Michael Muller, director of global anticounterfeiting operations for Eli Lilly, raised concerns that reimportation could allow the entry of counterfeit prescription drugs into the U.S.
He said, "Counterfeit products follow criminal distribution routes," adding, "So these are the same routes where human slavery, arms trafficking, narcotics -- all the criminal activities follow the same routes. Counterfeit medicines follow those same traffic routes."
However, Bill Pewen, a health policy adviser for Snowe who attended the briefing, said, "It appears contradictory to cite the problems of regulatory oversight and counterfeiting in these countries -- which the Dorgan-Snowe legislation does not designate for drug importation -- and yet increasingly utilize that environment for producing pharmaceuticals."
According to a brief distributed by the office of Emanuel titled "Five Facts PhRMA Will Ignore About Rx Importation," the bill sponsored by the four lawmakers would require the use of new tracking and identification technologies to prevent the entry of counterfeit prescription drugs into the U.S.
Muller said, "All of those things are technologies only, they're tools only and they can be replicated as quickly as we can implement them they can be replicated by the counterfeiters" (Edney, CongressDaily, 6/26).