HHS May Implement Prescription Drug Reimportation Bill if Enacted
Although the Bush administration has expressed opposition to legislation that would allow U.S. residents to import prescription drugs from other nations, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has said that they would implement such a bill if the legislation did not require him to certify the safety of such medications, according to Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), The Hill reports. HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce said that if a House-passed bill (HR 2427) sponsored by Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) that would allow prescription drug importation from Canada and other industrialized nations became law, "we would have to enact it. That's just a fact." He added, however, that Congress, not HHS, would "have to account for safety problems that arise," The Hill reports. In addition, Emerson, who cosponsored the legislation, said that Thompson told her and Gutknecht, "You give me a bill, I will make it work. If you tell me I have to do this, I will." According to The Hill, the comments from HHS officials are "significant" because some observers have predicted that the administration would not implement the legislation. The administration has opposed the bill because of safety concerns and favors a Senate-passed bill that would require the HHS secretary to certify the safety of prescription drugs from other nations. Thompson has said that he could not certify the safety of such medications (Cusack/Kaplan, The Hill, 10/2). A recent spot check conducted by FDA and border patrol officials at various mail centers found that 88% of prescription drugs purchased from other nations are unapproved for U.S. use (California Healthline, 9/30).
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has asked state officials to study programs under consideration in other states to allow residents to reimport prescription drugs from Canada, the Detroit News reports. Granholm hopes to determine the feasibility of such a program in Michigan, Granholm spokesperson T.J. Bucholz said, adding, "Our ultimate goal is to make prescription drugs as affordable as possible" (Egan, Detroit News, 10/1). In September, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) each announced plans to examine prescription drug reimportation programs for state employees and residents. In addition, Springfield, Mass., Mayor Michael Albano earlier this year launched a program under which city employees can reimport prescription drugs from Canada (California Healthline, 9/30). Bucholz said that Granholm has concerns about the safety of reimported prescription drugs, but he added, "Buying prescription drugs from Canada, from a licensed pharmacist, is no different than buying in the United States. It's a lot different from buying from a vendor in Ethiopia." Michigan spends more than $1 billion per year on prescription drugs for about 1.4 million Medicaid beneficiaries and low-income residents (Detroit News, 10/1).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.