Friday, December 11, 2009

Drug reimportation redux: Now the dems don't want to offend Big Pharma.

WASHINGTON — Debating an overhaul of the health care system, the Senate found itself tied in knots on Thursday over a bipartisan proposal to allow people to import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and certain other countries.

The chief sponsor of the proposal, Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said: “People are walking on eggshells. If we pass legislation allowing people freedom to import drugs, the pharmaceutical industry might not support the health care bill.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, a leading proponent of drug imports, said, “There’s great dissension in the Democrat caucus over Senator Dorgan’s amendment concerning importation of drugs from Canada and other countries.”

“If it passes, as it should, it breaks the agreement that the White House made with PhRMA,” Mr. McCain said. “So the White House, as well as PhRMA, has been over here lobbying furiously.”

In a letter to the Senate, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the commissioner of food and drugs, expressed concern that imported drugs might be contaminated or counterfeit because the Food and Drug Administration “does not have clear authority over foreign supply chains.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Mr. Dorgan’s amendment would save the federal government $19.4 billion over the next decade, because federal programs would spend less on medications.

“U.S. consumers are charged the highest prices in the world for drugs that sell for a fraction of the price in most other countries,” Mr. Dorgan said. “My amendment includes strong safeguards to prohibit drug counterfeiting and other practices that would put the consumer at risk. It applies only to F.D.A.-approved prescription drugs produced in F.D.A.-approved plants from countries with comparable safety standards.”

New York Times

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