A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday announced a plan to introduce a bill that would allow the reimportation of prescription medicines from other Western nations where the drugs are cheaper. The bill is backed by Democratic senators Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Tom Daschle (S.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), as well as Republicans John McCain (Ariz.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). CongressDaily reports that the bill would allow U.S. consumers and formal organizations like state medical programs to buy prescription medications from Canada, the European Union, and other countries with modern drug regulatory practices. The bill also reportedly includes the levying of fees on foreign drug companies shipping medications to the United States to cover Food and Drug Administration inspections of the medications. Dorgan says he expects the bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote this year.
U.S. consumers are frequently turning to foreign pharmacies and drug distributors, particularly those in Canada, to purchase medications that are sold at a fraction of the price charged in the United States due to price controls in the foreign countries. Some anti-HIV medications and cancer treatments sell in Canada for half the price or less that is charged in the United States. The recent decision by pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories to boost the price of its HIV protease inhibitor Norvir by 400% in the United States now makes the drug as much as 10 times more expensive for U.S. consumers than those in other Western nations with drug price caps.
The Bush administration and the pharmaceutical industry oppose drug reimportation, even from other developed nations. They claim they oppose the practice because drugs shipped back into the United States cannot be guaranteed to be safe or effective.