Senate Moves Bill on Drug Importation
Byline: Gregory Lopes, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Senate, ignoring a White House veto threat, yesterday advanced a measure that permits the importation of less-costly prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
Under the legislation, any imported drugs would have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, manufactured in facilities inspected by the FDA and have documentation about who has handled the drugs. The bill limits drug imports to 19 industrialized countries and would require the FDA to inspect Canadian prescription-drug exporters 12 times annually.
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat and the bill's sponsor, has long advocated allowing importation of U.S.-made prescription drugs or drugs made abroad but federally approved into the United States.
His goal is to lower drug costs that have increased by more than 10 percent each of the past three years. The bill would save the federal government $50 billion over 10 years, which is not a significant amount. However consumers paying for expensive prescription drugs could save significant money.
"The fact is, we are paying the highest prices for brand-name prescription drugs in the world and that's not fair," Mr. Dorgan said. "Let's make the global economy work for everybody."
Opponents of drug reimportation, such as the pharmaceutical industry, say cheaper drugs are available in Canada because of government price controls and warn similar government intervention would result if drug reimportation were allowed.
Safety is another issue triggered in the drug reimportation debate. Mr. Dorgan has pressed for years to bring the bill to a vote, but opponents consistently parried his effort on the basis that reimported drugs are not safe. President Clinton's administration did not support reimporting prescription drugs.
Lawmakers in the Senate voted 63-28 to limit debate on the bill and move to a final vote on adding the provision to a larger bill about the oversight of drug safety by the Food and Drug Administration. …