Thompson Allowed to Implement Drug Reimportation Bill
Although HHS Secretary Donna Shalala refused to implement the prescription drug reimportation law passed last year, a Congressional Research Service report released yesterday by Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) found that Shalala's decision "does not preclude" future HHS secretaries from taking action, CongressDaily reports. The CRS report said, "Nothing in the provision expressly limits the HHS secretary to 'one bite at the apple.' The effect of the initial failure to make a secretarial demonstration is to put implementation into abeyance." A Jeffords spokesperson said that the Vermont senator requested the report to "head off" pharmaceutical industry efforts to stifle the law "due to Shalala's actions" (CongressDaily, 1/11). Jeffords said that the report provides "new life" to the drug reimportation law, adding, "I was extremely disappointed that Secretary Shalala would play politics with such an important issue. ... Each day we spend on partisan bickering is a day that Americans are paying too much for prescription drugs." Last week, Jeffords met with HHS Secretary-designate Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) to discuss implementing the drug reimportation law (Jeffords release, 1/10).
According to Shalala, the law, which would allow pharmacists and wholesalers to reimport from abroad prescription drugs that meet federal safety standards, could pose "additional risk to the public's health and safety." She also said the law was "filled with loopholes" that would leave it "unworkable" (CongressDaily, 1/11). Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been active in the reimportation debate, called the CRS report "nothing new," adding, "The real question is what will the implementation of a bill with so many loopholes accomplish. ... The answer is that implementing such a bill will be a hollow gesture that might make people think that Congress has solved the high cost of prescription drugs when it has not" (Sanders release, 1/10).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.