Senate Committee Hearing Examines Benefits, Risks of Prescription Drug Reimportation
Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the first day of a two-day hearing on Wednesday discussed the potential risks and benefits of legislation that would allow U.S. residents to reimport lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Frommer, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/16).
At the hearing, which focused on a report released in December 2004 by the HHS Task Force on Drug Importation, committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) said that lawmakers could develop a reimportation bill that would maintain standards of prescription drug safety and effectiveness in the United States. He added that reimportation "can't happen if we can't guarantee those things." Enzi said, "The phrase 'The devil is in the details' seems to fit pretty well. 'The details' are exactly what these two days of hearing[s] will be about"
The HHS task force report concluded that the cost of a national prescription drug reimportation program would exceed savings for U.S. consumers and that such a program could limit future medication innovation (CQ HealthBeat, 2/16).
Pfizer executive Peter Rost, who has advocated prescription drug reimportation, said to committee members, "Every day Americans die ... because we want to protect the profits of foreign corporations." He added, "The industry is making a historic mistake in opposing importation" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/16).
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who testified about state Web sites that help state employees and residents purchase prescription drugs through Canadian pharmacies, said, "We have not had a single complaint, out of more than 9,000 prescriptions for people ordering through the site" (CQ HealthBeat, 2/16).
U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, chair of the HHS task force, acknowledged that prescription drug standards in Canada are similar to those in the United States. He added, "But we found hundreds of Web sites purporting to be Canadian pharmacies, when really they were offshore gimmicks that were perpetrated on the public. In fact, we saw some with (phony) FDA seals of approval on them, which we had no knowledge of" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/16).
Committee members on Thursday will examine a Department of Commerce report on prescription drug price controls in other nations and how they could affect U.S. consumers (CQ HealthBeat, 2/16).