House Subcommittee Approves Amendment To Prevent FDA Enforcement of Ban on Prescription Drug Reimportation
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies on Monday voted 8-6 to approve an amendment to a bill that would prevent FDA enforcement of a federal ban on the reimportation of prescription drugs from other nations, CQ Today reports (Jalonick, CQ Today, 6/14). Under the amendment, FDA officials could not spend any agency funds on enforcement of the reimportation ban (Dreyfuss, AP/Austin American-Statesman, 6/15). Three Republican members of the subcommittee -- Reps. JoAnn Emerson (Mo.), Jack Kingston (Ga.) and Virgil Goode (Va.) -- and all the Democratic members except for Rep. Sam Farr (Calif.) voted in favor of the amendment (Hagstrom, CongressDaily, 6/15). The "last-minute" amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), caught subcommittee Chair Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) "by surprise," the AP/American-Statesman reports. "I would like to state my strong opposition," Bonilla said, adding, "The subcommittee has tried to work very closely as a group to try to let each other know about issues, and quite frankly, we are blindsided by this." Kaptur said that the amendment, part of a larger agriculture appropriations bill, would provide U.S. residents with access to "safe prescription drugs," adding, "The costs of prescription drugs are going up" (AP/Austin American-Statesman, 6/15).
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan on Monday said that the Bush administration is "working quickly to ascertain whether safety issues can be addressed" to allow prescription drug reimportation, CongressDaily reports (Koffler, CongressDaily, 6/15). McClellan is part of the 13-member HHS Task Force on Drug Importation, which has held a series of meetings as part of a study -- mandated by the new Medicare law -- on the safety of reimportation and the effect of the practice on prescription drug development. The task force must report the results of the study to Congress by Dec. 1, but HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has said that he hopes to complete the study by mid-summer (California Healthline, 5/17). "While people want to find a way to do importation safely, they know -- and I think there's broader recognition than ever -- that there's some real safety problems that need to be addressed," McClellan said. "I'm pleased that there is a lot more interest in whether importation can really be done safely, and we'll keep working as quickly as we can to address the safety issues," he added. However, McClellan did not comment on when the administration plans to make a decision on the issue, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 6/15).
The Hill on Thursday examined how some Republican congressional candidates in close races this year are "bucking the White House and Hill GOP leaders" with their support for prescription drug reimportation. According to The Hill, several Republican lawmakers -- such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Reps. Rick Renzi (Ariz.) and David Vitter (La.) -- and GOP candidates Stan Thompson, challenger to Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), and Kentucky state Sen. Tom Buford, challenger to Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), support some form of reimportation. "I'm in favor of importing drugs from Canada," Thompson said, adding, "You have to take the issue on its merits and address what's best for the district. I'm not aware of any problems ... regarding Canadian drugs." Mike Dawidziak, a campaign consultant for Republican candidate Bill Manger, challenger to Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), said, "Seniors are a big voting constituency on Long Island, and when you lose their support, it's detrimental to election efforts." Chuck Muth, president of Citizen Outreach, said that many of the Republican lawmakers have decided to support reimportation "for political expediency," adding that the issue "looks good in the short term (and) they're looking at short-term electoral gain." National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Bo Harmon said that Republican candidates "are free to agree and disagree, just as Republicans in Congress do," on the issue of reimportation, adding, "There's not an NRCC position. It's something that each candidate comes to on their own" (Govindarajan, The Hill, 6/10).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.