Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Debate on Drug Reimportation Is Heating Up

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Debate on Drug Reimportation Is Heating Up

Article excerpt

For Dr. Ronald I. Blum of Island Falls, Maine, the national debate on drug reimportation is old news.

As a family physician whose practice is just 25 miles from the Canadian border, Dr. Blum said he estimates that at least one in ten and perhaps as many as one in three of his patients get their prescriptions filled in Canada.

The controversy is much hotter for the rest of the country, where prescription drug prices are expected to be a part of this year's election debate.

The Bush administration has formed a task force that is considering how drug reimportation could be conducted safely and what impact it could have on health, medical costs, and the development of new medicines.

The task force, chaired by U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, has been holding a series of "listening sessions" in Washington in preparation for making recommendations by the end of the year.

Sen, John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, supports drug reimportation. Sen. Kerry wants to allow individuals, pharmacists, wholesalers, and distributors to reimport FDA-approved prescription drugs from other countries. He also has called on President Bush to approve state pilot programs to help reimport drugs.

And new legislation was introduced in the Senate in April that seeks to legalize imports of FDA-approved drugs from Canada and several other countries.

The legislation (S. 2328), which is being billed as a bipartisan compromise, would allow personal reimportation of a 90-day supply of drugs from Canada. In addition, consumers who travel to European Union countries. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Switzerland would be allowed to bring back 90-day supplies of medications. Consumers would be allowed to bring back 14-day supplies of medications from other foreign countries.

The Senate bill also would legalize commercial importation by pharmacists and drug wholesalers from Canada within 90 days of enactment of the law, and from the European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Switzerland within a year.

The pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes reimportation.

"This bill undercuts the FDA's ability to protect patients' health and will potentially allow foreign versions of medicines from over 22 countries into the United States--including medicines from places like Latvia, Estonia, and Slovenia," Alan F. …

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