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Will U.S. Allow Cheaper Drug Imports Under Reforms?

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, December 09, 2009 11:34 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Pharmaceutical Companies, FDA, Hamburg, Dorgan, Obama, Health Care Reform, Drug Imports

Will the U.S. allow cheaper drugs to be imported to the U.S. to save Americans money under health care reform? It looks doubtful.

Imported Drugs Could Keep Costs Down

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IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / Rx Drugs / author: pixhook

Will the U.S. allow the importation of less costly prescription medication under health care reform to save Americans billions?

An expected vote that would open up the U.S. to the importation of cheaper drugs was delayed Wednesday.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), would allow pharmacies and wholesalers to bring in drugs from Canada as well as Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Japan at substantially lower prices than Americans currently pay.

And Americans would be able to travel to Canada and purchase prescription drugs from FDA-inspected pharmacies.

“My goal isn’t to ask the American people to buy their prescription drugs overseas, my goal is that if we allow the American people to do that, the pharmaceutical industry would be required to re-price their drugs in the country,” Dorgan said as reported by the Wonk Room.

Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry is not keen on the idea. Go to another country and you can find prescription drugs at a cheaper price than they are offered to Americans.

"U.S. consumers are charged the highest prices in the world for FDA-approved prescription drugs, and that's just not fair," Dorgan said in a statement.

"We've seen drug prices rise by 9% this year alone, and we need to get a handle on them."

Allowing Medicare and Medicaid recipients to buy cheaper prescription drugs would have save the government more than $19 billion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Consumers would save even more. Dorgan estimates about $100 billion in cost savings for consumers over the next decade thanks to lower prescription drug prices.

But FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg sent letters to two senators expressing concern about the safety of the prescription drug supply since the drugs wouldn’t be under FDA scrutiny.

"There are significant safety concerns relating to allowing the reimportation of nonbioequivalent products, and safety issues related to confusion in distribution and labeling of foreign products and the domestic product that remain to be fully addressed in the amendment," wrote Hamburg in letters sent to Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Dorgan counters some FDA-approved drugs are already produced overseas.

President Obama had been a co-sponsor of Sen. Dorgan’s legislation when he was in the senate.

Remember early in the health care reform debate, the president corralled the support of the pharmaceutical industry when he got $80 billion in concessions over 10 years from the industry.

A vote on Sen. Dorgan’s amendment, officially called the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, and co-sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), is expected this week. #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Donna Weisman
Thursday, December 10, 2009 2:17 PM EST

Regardless of whether the government allows importation of cheaper drugs from Canada the average senior, which has experienced the devastating costs of drugs once they are in the donut hole, will order these drugs online. They have to. By the time you pay your monthly premiums for Part D and your supplement insurance to pay what Medicare does not, there is nothing left. Most Seniors are living from mo. to mo. they will have to do anything to cut their medical costs no matter what.

Comments for this article are closed.

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