Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Prescription Drug Importation is Not a Real Solution

The LA Times is reporting that former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. David A. Kessler is supporting a senate plan that would allow Americans to bring in lower-cost prescription drugs from outside the United States.

Safeguards proposed in legislation by Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) would protect consumers from substandard and counterfeit drugs, Kessler told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He had criticized earlier proposals as too weak on safety.

Because of government controls, brand-name drugs in European nations and in Canada are commonly 35% to 55% cheaper than in the United States. Americans annually import an estimated 10 million shipments of medicines from abroad in an unregulated and technically illegal market.

"We already have a system of importation of drugs that jeopardizes public health," said Kessler, who led the FDA from 1990 to 1997 under Republican and Democratic administrations. "I believe Congress has the responsibility to fix this serious problem…. The American public will be safer with a regulated system than with the current system of uncontrollable risk."

The article says the bill has a decent chance of passing. But here’s what’s always bothered me about the whole drug-importation debate. Instead of bringing in drugs from other countries, why don’t we find ways to lower costs here? The drug-importation law is probably necessary to insure a currently common practice is safer. But congress is abdicating its responsibility to the American people if it thinks this is a real solution to the problem.


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