Republican senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire--chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee--said Tuesday that he plans to introduce this week a bill that would allow the reimportation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, The Washington Post reports. The bill would call on the Food and Drug Administration to create a system within one year that would allow reimportation of U.S.-made drugs from Canada, where price controls keep medication prices significantly lower than the prices charged in the United States. Many anti-HIV medications, for example, sell in Canada for half or less of the price charged for the same medications in the United States. The bill also would call on the FDA to establish a similar system within three years to allow the reimportation of drugs from European Union countries. Drug manufacturers, wholesalers, and other organizations involved with reimportation would be required to register with the FDA and pay a fee to help cover the costs of implementing and maintaining the program.
Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a physician, says he has concerns about the bill, including the possibility that counterfeit drugs and drugs of unknown origin may be shipped to American consumers from foreign countries. The Post reports that Democrats are divided on how quickly to push for a vote on the bill, but any action on the legislation seems unlikely until late summer at the earliest. Similar drug reimportation bills have been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), but Senate leaders say Gregg's bill is the most likely to be considered by the full Senate.