President Bush Says Safety Concerns About Reimportation of Prescription Drugs Remain
President Bush on Wednesday at a campaign event in Wisconsin said that although Congress faces "a lot of pressure" to pass legislation to legalize prescription drug reimportation, the safety of the practice remains unclear, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in May said that he would advise Bush not to block reimportation legislation, but the president to date "has said little on the subject," the AP/Sun reports. According to the AP/Sun, the issue "would play well in the northern battleground states" such as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, whose residents have traveled to Canada to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs.
On Wednesday, Bush said, "What I don't want to do is be the president that says we'll allow for importation, and all of a sudden drugs that are manufactured somewhere else come in over the Internet and it begins to harm our citizens." He added, "What I don't want is somebody to say 'Oh gosh, I'd be able to buy a cheaper drug from Canada' and (then) that drug ends up coming from another country without proper inspection and proper safety." Bush said, "I'm looking at this," adding, "If it's safe, then it makes sense." Phil Singer, a spokesperson for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), said, "Millions of Americans could have this relief tomorrow if George Bush would just give the word, considering that he's done more for the drug companies than he has for seniors" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/18).
In related news, supporters of legislation to allow U.S. residents to purchase prescription drugs from Canada have raised concerns about the objectivity of an investigation into the safety of the practice led by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), Long Island Newsday reports (Barfield Barry, Long Island Newsday, 8/19). The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in March hired Giuliani Partners, a consulting group led by Giuliani, to conduct the investigation, which examined reimported medications seized by federal officials, as well as technologies that could help prevent the entry of potentially dangerous treatments in the U.S. prescription drug supply (California Healthline, 3/16).
Giuliani this spring submitted a preliminary report on the investigation and this summer testified on the issue before two Senate committees. The preliminary report found that many prescription drugs purchased from Canada are manufactured in nations such as Pakistan or China. In addition, the report found "significant evidence" that U.S. residents have received expired or counterfeit medications, Newsday reports. The report also found "flaws in the U.S. drug system," such as a lack of adequate federal oversight, according to Newsday. Giuliani plans to release a final report next month.
Michael Burgess, director of the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans said, "They want to have a popular spokesman, but he's in the business of taking money to serve his clients. You have to look at who is paying him."
David McKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, said, "It's pretty clear he is going to spin all of his findings toward the agenda of his client."
However, PhRMA spokesperson Court Rosen said, "Folks on both sides of the aisle respect" Giuliani for his leadership, adding, "I don't think it's a partisan issue" (Long Island Newsday, 8/19).