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US Bipartisan Bill To Allow Drug Imports Unveiled January 10, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–Republican and Democratic lawmakers of both houses of Congress teamed up Wednesday to announce a bill to allow the importation of federally approved drugs into the U.S. from foreign countries.

The bill is the eighth attempt in as many years to reverse a law passed in 1987 which banned the import of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration into the U.S. from other countries.

The Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act has been sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, and Olympia Snow, R-ME, and Reps. Jo Ann Emerson, R-MO, and Rahn Emanuel, D-IL, in the House of Representatives.

All four expressed confidence that the proposed law would be successful in votes in both chambers. The Democratic leadership in both the Senate and the House have committed themselves to allowing the bill to be voted on the floor, although not to a particular timetable.

At a press conference in the Senate media gallery, Dorgan pointed to the fact that drugs in Canada and in European countries are commonly much cheaper than the same drugs are in the U.S.

Dorgan held up two jars of the popular cholesterol fighting medicine Lipitor, manufactured by drug major Pfizer Inc. (PFE). The medication in both was made in Ireland and then exported to the U.S. and Canada, where it was priced 65% cheaper than in the U.S.

“We want to put downward pressure on the price of prescription drugs,” said Dorgan. “Currently, the big drug manufacturers can monopoly price their medicines here, and as a result, American consumers pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

The legislation would allow individuals to directly order medication from outside the U.S. when using a Canadian pharmacy that is registered with the FDA. It would also allow U.S. licensed pharmacists and wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from a number of major industrialized nations.

President George W. Bush has spoken out against similar attempts by Congress in the past. Were the bill to pass both chambers successfully, the White House would be left facing the politically unpopular decision to invoke a veto.

The move has the backing of the powerful lobby group, the AARP.

“It’s an embarrassment that the very same medications Americans pay top dollar for in the U.S. cost so much less in Canada and Europe. Americans are getting a raw deal,” said Bill Novelli, AARP chief executive, in a statement.

By Corey Boles, Dow Jones Newswires

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