Rx DRUG COSTS: Industry Desperate to Quash Import Bill
In the latest bout over rising prescription drug prices, the pharmaceutical industry has launched an extensive campaign to block legislation that would allow pharmacists and wholesalers to import less expensive drugs from other countries, the Wall Street Journal reports. The industry has deployed a swarm of lobbyists on Capitol Hill and has run full-page ads in several major newspapers, arguing that a recent House vote to bar the FDA from enforcing a 1988 law that gave drug manufacturers the sole right to reimport their products into the United States poses a safety threat to consumers. The 1988 law was designed to protect Americans from counterfeit or substandard medicines from other countries. The House action "emboldened" Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to propose similar legislation in the Senate as an amendment to an agriculture spending bill. The Journal reports that unlike the House provision, the Senate proposal contains safeguards to protect consumers from impure or imitation drugs (McGinley, 7/19). But House sources believe they also have safety language allowing for prescription drug reimportation, which is acceptable to the FDA (American Health Line 7/19).
Testimony Will Not Deter Jeffords
At a Tuesday HELP Committee hearing, Jeffords countered assertions from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (the organization which spent over $475,000 on the newspaper ads that ran Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) that the FDA opposes his bill. He said that his staff has "been working with FDA officials to ensure the safety of drugs brought back into the country" (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 7/19). "There is no rational defense for the same product being sold here and in other countries for these vastly different prices," Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), one of the House bill's sponsors, said (Wall Street Journal, 7/19).