Governors, Lawmakers Hold Meeting on Reimporting Prescription Drugs From Canada
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) on Tuesday held a meeting in Washington, D.C., with other governors and lawmakers to discuss the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada, the Baltimore Sun reports. The meeting "turned quickly into a pep rally" for reimportation and a "free-for-all bashing" of the pharmaceutical industry and FDA, the Sun reports (Zaneski, Baltimore Sun, 2/25). At the meeting, Pawlenty told Blagojevich, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) and West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise (D) that "as governors, it's our job to look for innovations and new ways to bring prescription drug costs down" (Lopez/Johns, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/25). Blagojevich said, "It's wrong when Americans have to pay prices for prescription drugs that are far above prices paid in Canada or anywhere else in the industrialized world," adding, "Reimporting American drugs from Canada is a constructive solution to a serious and growing problem" (Baltimore Sun, 2/25). Doyle said, "I can understand why we are fighting the drug companies. I cannot understand why we are fighting the federal government" (Webb, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/25).
At the meeting, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), co-sponsor of federal legislation that would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada, told Pawlenty, "I applaud you for your courage, and I applaud you for what you are doing to support your citizens" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/25). Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), also a co-sponsor of the federal bill, said, "The American consumer is being cheated, and the FDA is driving the getaway car ... we are being charged the highest prices in the world" (Rovner/Rich, CongressDaily, 2/25). Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) added, "Let's be clear: There are Americans who are dying because they can't afford to pay for the prescription drugs they need" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/24).
Meanwhile, opponents of reimportation held a separate meeting sponsored by the Institute for Policy Innovation and the Pacific Research Institute, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 2/25). Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation said that the meeting held by Blagojevich and Pawlenty would not provide "a fully balanced and fair presentation of what's happening with" reimportation (Connolly, Washington Post, 2/25). At the meeting, FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts said that although prescription drugs purchased directly from Canadian pharmacies are safe, "when you remove the learned intermediary -- the doctor or the pharmacist -- and you replace them with a greedy intermediary -- a store-front drug dealer, an unregulated, out-of-control Internet pharmacy site -- all bets are off" (CongressDaily, 2/25). Pitts added that Web sites such as the one operated by Minnesota pose the "very real danger of turning the Internet into the 21st century's drug cartel," adding, "Americans do not deserve and will not accept a buyer-beware regulatory policy that trades safety for savings" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/25). Lothar Dueck, president of the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy, said that reimportation also could affect Canadian residents because the practice "siphons off drugs from a limited stockpile" in Canada, the Manchester Union Leader reports. "In a recent survey, 83% of (Canadian) pharmacies reported drugs were in shorter supply than they were six months ago," Dueck said (Atkinson, Manchester Union Leader, 2/25). According to Pitts, FDA "has no intention of backing off its aggressive pursuit" of states and municipalities that promote reimportation, the Post reports (Washington Post, 2/25).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.