U.S. Report Doubts Drug-Import Savings; Task Force Studies Feasibility

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

U.S. Report Doubts Drug-Import Savings; Task Force Studies Feasibility


Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Permitting Americans to buy prescription drugs abroad safely, if it can be done at all, would wipe away most consumer savings and diminish investment in new medicines, the Bush administration said yesterday in a report.

The federal government only allows prescription drugs to be imported if they conform to U.S. standards or are made in America. However, consumers can bring in a small amount of prescription drugs for personal use.

U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow for large-scale drug imports as rising drug prices are prompting more Americans to cross into Canada, or look online, for better deals.

Several bills in the Senate would have permitted imports from Canada, where brand-name medicines can cost one-third or less of U.S. prices. Legislation passed the House last year, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, a surgeon, refused to allow a vote in the Senate.

The report, from an administration task force studying the feasibility of legalized drug imports, found a wholesale drug-importation program would only save U.S. consumers about 1 percent to 2 percent on drug costs.

Canada, which closely follows America's drug standards, has warned that it cannot provide enough medication for its citizens and U.S. consumers.

Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona was cautious about drug-importation programs.

"We'd only recommend a program for drugs that are in high use, with high costs and are in higher demand in the United States," he said.Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said the Bush administration's senior advisers would recommend a veto if Congress passed an importation bill that stifled drug competition or innovation. …

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