Thompson Warns of Drug Reimportation Safety Concerns
The Bush administration said Tuesday that the FDA "cannot guarantee the safety" of reimported prescription drugs, "dealing a second blow" to a law passed last year to help Americans purchase discounted medicines, the AP/Arizona Republic reports (AP/Arizona Republic, 7/11). Under the law, pharmacists and wholesalers could import from abroad pharmaceuticals that meet U.S. safety standards. However, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that the law could "fill U.S. shelves" with counterfeit or contaminated drugs, pointing out that the FDA could not "sufficiently monitor" medicines after they leave the United States (AP/Arizona Republic, 7/11). In a July 9 letter to Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), a key supporter of the law, Thompson said, "I do not believe we should sacrifice public safety for uncertain and speculative cost savings" (Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 7/11). Jeffords, "disappointed" with the decision, said that he would "return to the drawing board." According to the AP/Arizona Republic, Thompson's announcement reaffirms a decision made last December by former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, who refused to implement the law over safety concerns (AP/Arizona Republic, 7/11). Still, Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) pointed out that the FDA helped to draft the legislation and "questioned why" Thompson opposes the law when President Bush said during his presidential campaign that he would support the measure. "Secretary Thompson's statement is essentially a regurgitation of the pharmaceutical industry line," Sanders said.
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Meanwhile, in the House today, lawmakers plan to vote on two prescription drug reimportation amendments to the FY 2002 agriculture appropriations bill. One amendment, sponsored by Sanders, would prevent the FDA from enforcing a ban on the drug reimportation law passed last year. Under a separate amendment, sponsored by Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.), the FDA would be prevented from enforcing restrictions on consumers who import prescription drugs into the United States for "personal use" (CongressDaily/AM, 7/11).