House Approves Agriculture Appropriations Bill With Prescription Drug Reimportation Provision
House members on Tuesday voted 389-31 to pass the fiscal year 2005 agriculture appropriations bill (HR 4766), which contains a provision that would prevent FDA from enforcing a ban on drug reimportation and could allow some U.S. residents to purchase prescription drugs from other countries, the AP/Detroit News reports (Dreyfuss, AP/Detroit News, 7/14). The $83.7 billion agriculture appropriations bill would fund most operations of FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and contains language that would prohibit FDA officials from spending agency funds on enforcement of the reimportation ban. Many lawmakers have predicted that the reimportation provision will be dropped in conference committee; the House Appropriations Committee last year approved a similar provision but later dropped it in conference committee (California Healthline, 7/12). House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Chair Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), who opposed the provision, said a similar strategy would be used this year. He added, "We'll just deal with [the FDA provision] in conference" (AP/Detroit News, 7/14).
The reimportation provision "reflects strong support for drug importation from rank-and-file House members," according to the Washington Post (Morgan, Washington Post, 7/14). Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who supports reimportation, said, "People from all over the world come to the United States for their medical care, yet Americans are forced to go all over the world for their medication" (AP/Detroit News, 7/14). The Wall Street Journal reports that the drug reimportation provision is "more symbolic than real," because it is not expected to survive beyond committee; however it "reflect[s] genuine unrest among lawmakers" (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 7/14).
The White House Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday issued a statement opposing the reimportation measure. "It would be virtually impossible for the FDA to verify that drugs being imported are indeed FDA-approved and not counterfeit," the statement said. According to the AP/News, the statement "did not threaten a presidential veto" on any measure legalizing reimportation. According to the News, the statement said the Bush administration supports the agriculture appropriations bill and would push for changes in committee (AP/Detroit News, 7/14).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.