Release: Safe Rx Drug Importation Needed in Health Reform

WASHINGTON, December 9 – The Senate is expected to vote on an amendment cosponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders to allow importation of FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada and Europe.

The amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could come up for a Senate vote as soon as tomorrow.

Sanders was the first member of Congress to take constituents across the Canadian border to buy their prescription drugs at a fraction of the price they were forced to pay in the United States. 

Sanders said, “It is totally absurd that the same exact prescription drug is sold for a fraction of the price in Canada or in Europe, and that we Americans end up paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.  What this amendment is about is saying that distributers, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. should be able to re-import FDA-approved medicine from other countries and that will enable us to substantially lower the price of prescription drugs in this country, and that is something we absolutely have to do.”

Previous efforts to implement reasonable and safe importation laws and regulations have been largely thwarted by the powerful pharmaceutical industry and its well-funding lobbying and advertising arms.  The pharmaceutical industry's lobby spent more than $900 million during the past decade trying to influence Congress to keep drug prices high. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this proposal is estimated to save the federal government $19.4 billion over the next 10 years. The lower drug prices would also save American consumers about $100 billion over the next decade. Drug prices in the U.S. have been going up dramatically in recent years – a 9 percent jump in 2009 alone – and this amendment could provide some relief for the relentless increases. 
The legislation contains strong safeguards to prohibit counterfeit drugs from entering the system or other practices that would put the consumer at risk, and applies only to FDA-approved prescription drugs produced in FDA-approved plants from countries with comparable safety standards.

The proposal introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has substantial bipartisan support, with Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), David Vitter (R-LA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) cosponsoring the amendment.

President Obama cosponsored similar legislation when he was in the Senate.