Rx Importation Legislation Gains Bipartisan Senate Support?

APRIL 01, 2005
Ken Rankin

Senate leaders from both sides of the political aisle are pushing new legislation that they say will lower prescription drug costs hundreds of billions of dollars by allowing pharmaceutical imports from Canada and other countries where drug prices are controlled.

On the Republican side, Sen David Vitter (R, La), is sponsoring a bill to permit the importation of prescription medicines from Canada and other countries, provided that the FDA approves the drugs and the facilities where they are manufactured.

The bill would exclude importation of "pharmaceutical narcotics"and require that all prescription medicines imported to the United States be shipped using "counterfeit-resistant technologies."

Vitter told the Senate that his proposed new Pharmaceutical Market Access Act of 2005 would "reverse the perverse economics of the American pharmaceutical market"and help US consumers save "at least $635 billion of their own money."

Democrats, meanwhile, are backing an Rx import bill of their own. Their proposed new "Affordable Health Care Act"would reduce US "health costs substantially by making FDA-approved drugs available at the same fair prices available to Canadians and Europeans, rather than the inflated prices charged to US patients,"Sen Edward Kennedy (D, Mass) told Congress.

Calling prescription drug costs "out of control,"Kennedy said that the proposed legislation is necessary because "too many patients are cutting the pills their doctors prescribe in half or going without them altogether, because they can't afford the drugs they need to treat or prevent disease."

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.