The Senate held hearings Wednesday titled Policy Implications of Pharmaceutical Importation for U.S. Consumers. Drug Imports Battle Heats Up Again, noted the Associated Press.
IMHO, Billy Tauzin did a very good job laying out the main drawbacks to importation in his testimony before the Senate:
- Importation opens our borders to drugs from anywhere in the world and there is no plausible way of limiting importation to Canada or Western Europe;
- Safety testing, inspections, chain of custody requirements and other attempts to “guarantee” safety provide no assurances that imported drugs will be safe;
- Projections of potential cost-savings from importation are very small and the largest beneficiaries are arbitrageurs;
- Importation is not free trade, it is price controls which lead to delays and denials in patients’ access to medicines; and
- There are better, safer alternatives for patients to access needed medicines, including the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) and Medicare Part D for seniors and the disabled.
Astute readers of my blog will realize that I concur with all of these key points. His testimony is worth reading, especially because the footnotes cite most of the legitimate research on the subject. (Yes, distribution geeks like me always read footnotes!)
Where's the Beef?
Unfortunately, I fear that the legislative decision may be made based on politics rather than facts. Senator Dorgan's post-hearing press release states:
- "I think we need to introduce a little price competition into the marketplace," said Dorgan. "There is no reason American consumers ought to be paying the highest prices in the world for prescription medicines."
Now, see if you can fill-in the blanks behind Senator Dorgan's comments in his Feb. 21 press release, just a scant 2 weeks ago:
- “Recent reports show that Canadian [products] are crossing the border without required health certificates and identification,” said Dorgan. “[Federal agency ending in DA] does not need to be expanding importation of Canadian [product], when it can’t even enforce the current regulations.”
The correct answers:
[products] = cattle; beef
[Federal agency ending in DA] = USDA