Gregg Again Postpones Committee Markup on Prescription Drug Reimportation Bill
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on Tuesday for the second time postponed a markup session scheduled Wednesday for a bill (S 2493) that would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs because of a scheduling conflict with a White House bill signing ceremony, The Hill reports. However, some have said the delay is because Gregg does not have enough support in the committee to pass the measure, according to The Hill. The markup could occur later in the week, The Hill reports (Marre, The Hill, 7/21). The scheduling conflict means "it would be unreasonable to assume" the bill could be marked up before Congress leaves for recess, Gregg said. He added, "I want to make sure I have the votes" before mark up (CongressDaily, 7/21).
The Gregg bill would require FDA to establish a system to allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada within one year and the reimportation of medications from European Union nations within three years. In addition, the bill would require pharmaceutical companies, prescription drug wholesalers and other entities involved in reimportation to register with FDA and pay a fee that would supplement the cost of implementation and maintenance of the system. The legislation would only allow the reimportation of FDA-approved medications from FDA-approved manufacturing facilities. The legislation also would require pharmaceutical companies to label reimported medications separately from other U.S.-manufactured treatments. Under the bill, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson could restrict, inspect and control the ports of access through which reimported medications enter the United States. In addition, the legislation would require online pharmacies to obtain licenses and would mandate that physicians in other nations cosign prescriptions for reimported medications. The bill would not penalize pharmaceutical companies that limit the number of prescription drugs available for reimportation (California Healthline, 7/20).
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said, "[Those who support the Gregg bill have] been trying to sell a bill that wouldn't lead to reimportation." He added, "They don't have the votes, so doing a markup would pose some danger" (CongressDaily, 7/21). If Gregg does not garner the endorsement of "key swing voter" and committee member Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), he must find one Democratic committee member to support the measure in order to perform a markup, The Hill reports. DeWine has said he does not support the bill, according to The Hill. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is considered to be "the only Democrat [on the committee] who could vote for the Gregg bill," The Hill reports. Bingaman has said he would vote for the legislation only if it includes language that would allow reimportation from Mexico, according to, The Hill reports. Bingaman spokesperson Maria Najera said Bingaman is discussing the issue with Gregg (The Hill, 7/21).
Dorgan and other senators have introduced a rival reimportation bill (S 2328) that has fewer restrictions than the Gregg legislation and is supported by many committee members (CongressDaily, 7/21). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) earlier this year promised Dorgan a vote on a reimportation bill in exchange for his decision to lift a hold on the nomination of Mark McClellan as CMS administrator (California Healthline, 4/22). A House-passed Agriculture Department appropriations bill also includes language that would legalize reimportation, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 7/21).
Democratic committee members "are still strategizing" over what they plan to do if a markup on the Gregg bill is held before the recess. Democrats could offer the Dorgan bill without amendment changes as a substitute until the bill reaches the floor, or they could offer "targeted amendments" such as provisions to restrict drug manufacturers' ability to circumvent reimportation measures, which could draw attention to what some Democrats believe are shortcomings in the Gregg bill, according to HELP spokesperson Jim Manley, The Hill reports (The Hill, 7/21).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.