DRUG REIMPORTATION: House Members Debate New Language
In the continuing debate over drug reimportation, "key House Democrats" and Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter last week to agricultural appropriators stating that the current reimportation language has several loopholes that allow "drug manufacturers to circumvent the intent of the bill" (Fulton, CongressDaily/A.M., 10/3). Sanders spearheaded the effort to allow Americans to buy U.S. manufactured drugs from foreign countries at reduced prices last year when he introduced a bill to overturn a 1988 law allowing only pharmaceutical manufacturers to import and reimport drugs. In July, the House approved two amendments to the FY 2001 Agricultural Appropriations bill that would allow for drug reimportation ( California Healthline, 9/25). According to CongressDaily/A.M., the House and Senate Republican leadership has "modified" the language by limiting the number of countries from which drugs can be acquired and calling for more restrictive labeling. The letter, signed by Democratic Reps. Marion Berry (Ark.), Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) and Henry Waxman (Calif.), states that the new language would "allow drug manufacturers to frustrate the intent of the legislation through changes in the labeling of their products" because the FDA requires that labels on reimports must meet its requirements. The modified version of the bill, according to the letter, would also allow drug makers to sign contracts with foreign distributors, thus discouraging or prohibiting reimportation. Finally, it takes issue with a clause that states that all imports would be suspended if any "attempted pattern" of violation was found. "It makes no sense to cut off all importation of all drugs because of a problem with one drug. Moreover, the provision creates uncertainties that will deter companies from entering the reimportation business," the letter states. The Republican leadership has sent the modified language to the White House for review (CongressDaily/A.M., 10/3).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.