Pfizer Official Rost Criticizes Grassley Over Stance on Reimportation of Prescription Drugs
Peter Rost -- a vice president of marketing at Pfizer who has publicly supported the legalization of importing lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations -- on Thursday said that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has failed to adequately encourage the practice, the Des Moines Register reports (Norman, Des Moines Register, 10/22).
Rost first advocated reimportation in August when he posted a positive review on Amazon.com about the book "The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It," written by former New England Journal of Medicine editor in chief Marcia Angell. Since that time, Rost has said that higher-income nations in Europe often reimport prescription drugs from nations such as Italy, Greece and Spain, which have lower prices, and that he "never, not once, heard the drug industry, regulatory agencies, the government or anyone else express any concern related to safety." Rost said that his support for reimportation did not represent the views of Pfizer.
In response, Pfizer Senior Vice President Chuck Hardwick sent a letter to members of Congress that said, "Dr. Rost has no qualifications to speak on importation, no responsibilities in this area at Pfizer, no knowledge of the information and analysis Pfizer has provided to the government on this issue and no substantive grasp of how importation may impact the safety of this nation's drug supply" (California Healthline, 10/1).
Rost on Thursday said Grassley is "playing politics with drug reimportation" because he did not include legalization measures in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, but afterward he sponsored a bill (S 2307) that would allow the practice, according to the Register. Rost also said Grassley's bill would not be as effective as another measure (S 2328) sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).
Grassley spokesperson Jill Kozeny said the senator voted in favor of amendments three times since 2000 that would allow reimportation, adding that the issue is not under his control because another committee has jurisdiction. Kozeny said that Dorgan's bill "lacks the stringent safety provisions needed to protect American consumers" and includes trade provisions that could create problems between the United States and the European Union. "Nonetheless, Sen. Grassley is committed to working with Sen. Dorgan and anyone who wants to get an importation bill passed and signed into law," she said (Des Moines Register, 10/22).