Opposition to Reimportation ‘Compelling,’ Surgeon General Says
In an interview on Tuesday, Surgeon General Richard Carmona said testimony by drug industry officials opposing the reimportation of prescription drugs from other nations because of the risks posed by counterfeit drugs was "compelling," the AP/Miami Herald reports (AP/Miami Herald, 4/7). On Monday, the 13-member Task Force on Drug Importation, which is chaired by Carmona, held its second meeting on reimportation as part of a study mandated by the new Medicare law on the safety of reimportation and its effect on drug development. The task force, members of which were appointed by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, can consult with other federal officials and will hold a total of six "listening sessions" with consumer advocates, health care purchasers, providers, health care industry representatives, international stakeholders and the public. In the first meeting, consumer advocates testified that a safe reimportation system could be established. At Monday's meeting, drug company executives said that allowing reimportation would lower companies' incentive to invest in new medications and allow more prescription drug counterfeiting, which the executives said is a growing problem involving organized crime and some terrorist groups. The results of the study must be reported to Congress by Dec. 1, although Thompson wants the task force to finish by mid-summer (California Healthline, 4/6).
According to Carmona, the task force members "were not aware of the extremely robust counterfeiting system." He said, "I understand that corporate America is going to want to keep their stake in the market. But some of the evidence they presented, irrespective of their stake in the market, was compelling." He added that counterfeiting "would pose significant challenges to any importation plan that we may be considering in the future." Carmona said that supporters of reimportation must realize that "this is not simply, 'Pick a pharmacy across the border and just walk across and get your medication.' It's an extraordinarily complex problem that challenges the best minds in the field." However, Carmona said that the task force "has not closed the door" on finding a way to institute a reimportation program as long as the program could guarantee patient safety, the AP/Herald reports (AP/Miami Herald, 4/7).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.