New House Panel Criticizes FDA Enforcement of Prescription Drug Reimportation Law
Responding to claims by members of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness that the FDA is "scaring seniors who are trying to get more affordable medicine," agency officials yesterday defended their new policy to increase enforcement of laws barring the importation of U.S. prescription drugs from Canada, where they are often cheaper, the Wall Street Journal reports. Only drug manufacturers and their wholesalers are legally allowed to import prescription drugs, but the FDA has been lenient in allowing individuals to bring medications into the United States for their personal use (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 4/4). However, FDA Associate Commissioner for Policy and Planning William Hubbard in February said that the agency would begin to enforce the law against businesses that help people import drugs (California Healthline, 3/24). In a "raucous hearing," subcommittee members said the FDA should find a way to allow safe importation of drugs from Canada, according to the Journal. In addition, many "lambasted the FDA" and said it does not have evidence of the safety problems it cites as one of the problems with importation, the Journal reports. "You scare the hell out of [seniors]," committee Chair Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said. Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) added, "You should be putting out pamphlets saying people have been going across the border ... and there hasn't been one problem." Burton and Sanders also suggested that the FDA changed its policy due to pressure from the drug industry. Hubbard replied that he had "not been in touch with any sort of political interests in that way." He added that the agency is enforcing the law against businesses, not individuals buying medications for personal use (Wall Street Journal, 4/4).
cite>CongressDaily/AM reports that the newly formed subcommittee is a "new forum" for House members who want to make importation easier. Burton said that as chair he would "relentlessly champion the issue," according to CongressDaily/AM. "This isn't going away -- I'm going to be chair ... for six years, and you're going to be here a lot," Burton told Hubbard (Heil, CongressDaily/AM, 4/4).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.