Grassley To Introduce Bill Allowing Reimportation of Prescription Drugs
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday plans to introduce a bill that would legalize the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from other nations, the Des Moines Register reports. The bill immediately would legalize the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and create a 90-day deadline for FDA to develop a system to register and inspect Canadian suppliers. After that, U.S. consumers would be able to purchase prescription drugs only from Canadian companies that have been inspected and registered by FDA. After two years, the bill would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from other countries, including Australia, Japan and members of the European Union. To reimport prescription drugs, U.S. consumers would need prescriptions from U.S. doctors, and the consumers could only purchase treatments approved by FDA. In addition, the bill would not allow the reimportation of some types of prescription drugs, including potentially addictive painkillers. Grassley said that the cost of setting up an FDA inspection and registration system would be covered by fees paid by the Canadian exporters. He added that FDA estimates that the agency would need $100 million per year to ensure the safety of reimported drugs are "outrageous" and that the true cost of safety inspections would be much lower. Grassley also said that the bill would eliminate the tax deduction for advertising costs of any drug companies that cut off supplies to Canada. The bill would also reward drug makers that conform to the reimportation program with increased federal funds for research. "The fact of life is the FDA has been unresponsive on this issue, and my bill's going to change that," Grassley said (Leys, Des Moines Register, 4/8).
In March, Grassley said that he and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) were working together on a bipartisan bill that would give FDA the authority and funds to establish a regulatory process to track reimported prescription drugs (California Healthline, 3/9). However, Grassley said that Kennedy dropped out of the process because Democratic party leaders did not want Kennedy working with Republicans, the Register reports (Des Moines Register, 4/8). "I think the [Democrat] leadership wants an issue for the next election and not a product," Grassley said, adding, "I'm hoping that this attempt toward partisanship backfires. I hope we find enough Democrats who want to see this pass." However, Sara Feinberg, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), said that reimportation "has never been a partisan issue." A spokesperson for Kennedy said that the senator is trying to determine his party's "unified approach" to reimportation. Grassley and the Kennedy spokesperson said that the two sides might eventually work together again to produce a bipartisan bill, CQ Today reports (Carey, CQ Today, 4/7).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.