Imported Drugs Could Keep Costs Down
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. #