Wall Street Journal Looks at Proposed Drug Reimportation Legislation
The Wall Street Journal today examines the issue of reducing pharmaceutical costs through drug reimportation from Canada, where government controls keep pharmaceutical prices about 30% to 50% lower than in the United States. Legislation proposed in Congress would allow U.S. pharmacies and wholesalers to buy from Canada medications that originated in the United States and resell them at a cheaper price. While the FDA and U.S. customs inspectors allow individuals to travel to foreign countries and bring back "small quantities" of medications for personal use, by law pharmaceuticals cannot be imported except by manufacturers or their distributors. But rising prescription drug costs have led Democratic and Republican members of Congress from northern states, which generally have larger populations of senior citizens than the national average, to consider reimportation legislation, the Journal reports. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) plans to attach a reimportation proposal to the fiscal year 2003 agriculture appropriations bill, which the Senate will consider this summer, and Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) is considering proposing a bill in the House that would allow drug reimportation from Canada and other countries. The proposals are "vigorously oppose[d]" by the pharmaceutical industry and by HHS, which have said that reimportation would "increase the chances of counterfeit, contaminated or illegal drugs" entering the United States. Congress passed a reimportation bill two years ago, but former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala refused to certify it, as required, saying that she was not sure that it "was safe or would save people money." HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has upheld Shalala's position (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 6/3). Sponsors of reimportation legislation say the legislation could save consumers $38 billion a year in drug costs (American Health Line, 4/25).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.