Senate leaders from both sides ofthe political aisle are pushing new legislationthat they say will lower prescriptiondrug costs hundreds ofbillions of dollars by allowing pharmaceuticalimports from Canada and othercountries where drug prices are controlled.
On the Republican side, Sen DavidVitter (R, La), is sponsoring a bill topermit the importation of prescriptionmedicines from Canada and othercountries, provided that the FDAapproves the drugs and the facilitieswhere they are manufactured.
The bill would exclude importation of"pharmaceutical narcotics"and requirethat all prescription medicines importedto the United States be shipped using"counterfeit-resistant technologies."
Vitter told the Senate that his proposednew Pharmaceutical MarketAccess Act of 2005 would "reversethe perverse economics of the Americanpharmaceutical market"andhelp US consumers save "at least$635 billion of their own money."
Democrats, meanwhile, are backingan Rx import bill of their own. Theirproposed new "Affordable Health CareAct"would reduce US "health costssubstantially by making FDA-approveddrugs available at the same fair pricesavailable to Canadians and Europeans,rather than the inflated prices chargedto US patients,"Sen Edward Kennedy(D, Mass) told Congress.
Calling prescription drug costs "outof control,"Kennedy said that the proposedlegislation is necessary because"too many patients are cutting the pillstheir doctors prescribe in half or goingwithout them altogether, because theycan't afford the drugs they need totreat or prevent disease."
Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.