Reimportation Enforcement Eased in Budget Compromise Bill
Senate and House conferees on Friday reached an agreement for the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (HR 2862) to curtail the U.S. Trade Representative's authority to enforce provisions in future trade agreements that restrict prescription drug reimportation, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 11/4). Under the measure, the U.S. Trade Representative "could no longer craft trade deals making it harder to import American-made pharmaceuticals from nations such as Canada," Reuters/Washington Post reports.
The "compromise legislation" was agreed upon to keep "the rancorous issue of drug reimportation out of trade pacts," Reuters/Post reports (Reuters/Washington Post, 11/4).
Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.), the provision's sponsor, said, "Americans in need of affordable prescriptions should not be barred from lower-priced medications by the fine print in trade agreements" (Carroll, Louisville Courier-Journal, 11/6).
However, the Bush administration said the measure would "substantially weaken U.S. efforts to protect intellectual property through U.S. trade agreements," adding that the measure would infringe on the president's authority to negotiate trade pacts (Reuters/Washington Post, 11/4).
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said, "This amendment seriously undermines the USTR's ability to seek protections for all U.S. patent holders." Johnson added, "Without strong intellectual property protections in free-trade agreements, companies will have far less incentives to invest in future research and development of new lifesaving medicines" (Louisville Courier-Journal, 11/6).
The House's budget reconciliation bill, which includes a "mean-spirited cut of $12 billion in Medicaid access and benefits to the poor," is "so over-the-top in its inequities and giveaways that embarrassed [Republican] moderates are actually rebelling, withholding support unless some of the more outrageous measures ... are killed," a New York Times editorial states. According to the editorial, the "far saner Senate approach is to largely spare Medicaid but squeeze bloat from Medicare in the form of a notorious $10 billion 'stabilization fund' for providers that Congress' own advisory panel has warned is a windfall gimmick."
The upcoming negotiations between House and Senate conferees "will be a test ... of the Senate's more responsible budgeting to see if its negotiators allow the House to prevail on things like ... Medicaid," the editorial states (New York Times, 11/7).