Reimportation Debate Delays Spending Bill
Debate continued in Congress on Wednesday over provisions in House and Senate versions the fiscal year 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill that would allow U.S. residents to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports. According to the AP/Bee, congressional Republican leaders, "eager to adjourn for elections with a flourish," hoped to "sidetrack" the prescription drug reimportation provisions and "quickly" pass a final $33.7 billion Homeland Security appropriations bill, but "wrangling dragged out" (Jordan, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/20).
The Senate in July voted 68-32 to approve an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that would prohibit seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of prescription drugs purchased from Canadian pharmacies by U.S. residents.
The House has approved two appropriations bills -- Homeland Security and Agriculture -- that include provisions to allow the purchase of prescription drugs from other nations. The provision included in the House Homeland Security appropriations bill would allow the purchase of prescription drugs from any nation (California Healthline, 9/20).
Congressional Republican leaders, the White House and pharmaceutical companies support the current ban on prescription drug reimportation.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a member of the House Republican leadership, said, "There are a lot of us who believe that importation of drugs is a security issue -- it's an issue that is a threat to the health of Americans."
However, a number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers support the legalization of prescription drug reimportation.
Vitter said, "They've been hell-bent against this -- as has this administration," adding, "We clearly have the votes to protect the reimportation language in the bill, and that's what we're fighting for."
Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) said, "There's a lot of people who have gone specifically to Canada to buy drugs, and they get them significantly cheaper than they do in this country." He added that the legalization of prescription drug reimportation has "lots of popular support."
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said that he does not expect the debate over the prescription drug reimportation provisions to "hold anything up" with the passage of the final Homeland Security appropriations bill (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/20).