Lawmakers Urge Senate Vote on Prescription Drug Reimportation Bill Before July 4 Recess
Lawmakers from the House and Senate last week urged Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to schedule a vote before the July 4 recess on a bill allowing U.S. residents to purchase cheaper, U.S.-made prescription drugs from other nations, the Washington Times reports. Last Monday, 228 House members -- including 78 Republicans -- sent Frist a letter asking that he schedule a vote on a "comprehensive drug importation bill" because "[o]ur nation's seniors, and frankly all Americans, deserve a vote on a bi-partisan, market-based bill." In addition, Frist on Wednesday met with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who requested a "floor vote soon" on a reimportation bill, according to the Times (Fagan, Washington Times, 5/23). Last July, the House approved a bill (HR 2427) that would allow reimportation from 25 industrialized nations (California Healthline, 4/22). Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate, including a bipartisan measure to allow U.S. residents to reimport drugs only from Canada and later from other countries (Washington Times, 5/23).
Under the bipartisan Senate bill (S 2328), U.S. residents could reimport as much as a 90-day supply of prescription drugs from FDA-approved Canadian pharmacies for personal use. After 90 days, the legislation would allow licensed pharmacists and prescription drug wholesalers to reimport medications from Canada. In addition, U.S. residents who travel to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland or current European Union nations could return with as much as a 90-day supply of prescription drugs for personal use. After one year, pharmacists and wholesalers could reimport medication from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland or European Union nations that were members as of Jan. 1, 2003. Pharmacists and wholesalers that reimport prescription drugs would have to register with FDA; pay fees of as much as 1% of the price of the medications to fund the cost of additional federal inspectors and customs agents; and track and document the chain of custody of medications from manufacturer to consumer (California Healthline, 4/22). Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is also expected to introduce a competing bill after Memorial Day. Frist said that any reimportation bill would have to pass through Gregg's committee. Although Frist has not promised to bring a reimportation bill up for a vote, his spokesperson, Amy Call, said that a reimportation bill is "something he'd like to see move forward," and he "thinks the timing is right" to pass a bill with bipartisan support (Washington Times, 5/23).
NPR's "Day to Day" on Friday reported on efforts by Canada to block sales of prescription drugs to U.S. residents. The segment includes comments from Dr. John Gray, executive director and CEO of the Canadian Medical Protective Association; John Myers, general counsel for the Canadian International Pharmacy Association; and Dr. Paul Zickler, a physician in British Columbia (Kaufman, "Day to Day," NPR, 5/21). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.