The already heated controversy over whether US residents should be allowed to buy low-priced prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies turned even hotter in Washington as influential senators from both parties lined up in opposition to the Administration's efforts to curb cross-border dispensing. At the head of the charge was Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R, Iowa), who introduced legislation that would immediately remove current legal restrictions on importing prescription medications from Canada.
Eventually, the legislation envisions a global marketplace for prescription medicines, with US patients authorized to have their prescriptions filled by mail from pharmacies in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, as well as Canada.
Although some pharmaceutical manufacturers have taken action to discourage cross-border dispensing by limiting quantities sold to certain distributors in Canada, Grassley's bill would discourage such tactics. Using a carrot-and-stick approach, the legislation would eliminate advertising tax deductions for manufacturers who interfere with crossborder dispensing, while offering a 20% increase in the research and development tax credit for those who take no action to discourage imports.
Indications are that Grassley's bill is the first in a wave of election-year legislation aimed at lowering the barriers to Canadian drug imports. At press time, a bipartisan Senate group led by Sens Edward Kennedy (D, Mass) and John McCain (R, Ariz) was drafting separate legislation to overcome a key barrier to Rx importation?the FDA's limited authority to regulate prescriptions dispensed by Canadian pharmacies.