Rx DRUGS I: House Passes Reimport Bill Despite Loopholes
The House yesterday approved the prescription drug reimportation measure as part of a $78 billion agriculture appropriations bill, but rejected a Democrat proposal to "toughen proposed rules" for the imports, the Wall Street Journal reports. The 340-75 House vote "clears the way for adoption in the Senate," and "despite reservations" on the prescription drug issue, the White House plans to accept the bill. The reimportation legislation will permit pharmacists and wholesalers to import FDA-approved prescription drugs from countries where those drugs are offered at significantly lower prices than in the United States. However, congressional Democrats and the White House say the legislation contains loopholes that may allow drug companies to sidestep compliance. For example, the White House says the legislation would let drug companies deny importers access to FDA-approved labels needed to sell the drugs in the United States, essentially blocking reimportation (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/12). Furthermore, analysts interviewed by the Dallas Morning News/Boston Globe said that it may be years before seniors see the discounts, as the FDA will need two years to write and implement drug import regulations. Even then, they said, pharmaceutical makers can "rearrage their business plans to decrease, or even eliminate, their exposure to the law." For example, Lehman Brothers Senior Analyst Nancy Myers said that drug companies may limit the number of drugs they supply to other nations; charge other countries the same price as the United States for new drugs; manufacture drugs at overseas plants that have not been approved by the FDA; or adjust the shape, size and color of drugs sold overseas to track reimportation and change international supplies accordingly (Ornstein, Dallas Morning News/Boston Globe, 10/12). House Minority Leader Richard Gephart (D-Mo.) called the bill "a sham reimportation measure that isn't worth the government paper it's printed on" ( AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.