Kaiser Poll Show Support for Personal Imporatation

Kaiser Poll Show Support for Personal Imporatation

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Proposed Importation bill needs citizen input

As any visitor to this blog or our website knows we have been a long-standing supporter of importation legislation that provides the greatest access for Americans to purchase physician-prescribed prescription medicines produced at FDA-Approved facilities from licensed, registered pharmacies in Tier One Countries (those with oversight standards of safety and efficacy that meet or exceed those of the U.S.).

It has been a long-standing goal of most supporters of importation that Americans be able to continue to make such purchases directly from those pharmacies, formalizing the movement that was spurred by American seniors, who have demonstrated over the past 10 years that, when presented with pertinent facts about vital medicines and pharmacies in Tier One countries, they are able to make decisions that have enabled them to enjoy safe, effective medicines at tremendous savings that simply would not be available otherwise.

In the many incarnations of prescription medicine importation legislation proposed since 1999,while the primary language, under the sponsorship of Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)has called for direct purchases from Canadian pharmacies, their bill, popularly called Dorgan-Snowe has limited the rights of Americans to directly purchase physician-prescribed medicines from other Tier One country pharmacies in countries such as Australia and New Zealand,

Yet, while limiting such direct purchases, Americans would be able to purchase those same medicines from Australia and New Zealand at any U.S. pharmacy that might choose to purchase those same medicines for resale from a wholesaler or pharmacy based in either Australia or New Zealand. The result: The U.S. pharmacy becomes a middle-man supplier, unable to provide the savings that would otherwise be generated by direct purchases. And,there is no guarantee that ANY of the savings might be passed along to U.S. consumers.

Still, I and others supported the importation push because there were those who supported the right of individual purchase, and it was hoped that such provisions could be incorporated into any legislation that might be adopted.

With the change in Administrations in Washington, and the overwhelmingly Democrat majorities in the House, plus the bi-partisan support for importation as a tactic to lower prescription medicine prices in this country, it was hoped by many advocates that any legislation proposed would reflect the fact that the safety and efficacy, as well as the savings possible from access to pharmacies in Tier One countries have been adequately demonstrated, and that those responsible for drafting the proposed language would make sure that it reflected policy that would take full advantage of the benefits of access to safe, affordable medicines for the greatest number of Americans--including no restrictions on the right of Americans to purchase medicines directly from licensed, registered pharmacies in Tier One countries.

Instead, the new proposed language for the Dorgan-Snowe bill imposes such limitations while at the same time, telling Americans that if they want those same medicines from the same countries to which they are otherwise being denied access, they must purchase them from U.S. pharmacies, with no guarantees of savings.

For those thousands of Americans who have come to rely upon purchases of their medicines from those countries, this is a unacceptable situation because it threatens the health of U.S. citizens, and creates a situation which likely will only add to the costs of their medicines at a time when increasing numbers are facing dire economic times. Also, the fact is that the safety record of prescription medicines from licensed, registered pharmacies is exemplary.

Added to this is the fact that there are many other questions about the scope of the bill's proposed language and its impact upon mail-order and Internet-based pharmacies based in Canada that we believe require that the time be taken by the writers of the bill to seek additional input for consideration in the shaping of the final proposed language.

The new Administration of President Obama has pledged to bring a new openness and transparency to Washington and policy-making. The sponsors of importation have garnered many allies and friends over the years, and, I consider myself among those. But the fact is that this is not only an opportunity to ensure that any legislation will reflect the positive influence that can come from inclusion, but will address many concerns that are arising even among supporters. The fact is that this is as one supporter said,"not an ideal bill", but that he was willing to accept it because he believes it reflects several items that supporters have sought. While that might be true, the passage of a bill is not, in and of itself, the ultimate goal. Rather it is the health and cost benefits that can be provided to Americans across the country. The current proposal is fraught with many challenges.

We have written to staff of Senators Snowe and Dorgan, as well as staff in Congressman Marion Berry's (D-AR) office and Congresswoman Joanne Emerson's (R-MO) office to offer a list of considerations and questions that many feel need to be addressed in any legislation. Representatives Berry and Emerson will provide the leadership in the U.S. House, as Senators Dorgan and Snowe will do in the U.S. Senate. We hope that they will respond favorably to the request for seeking input from a number of sources.

In the next few posts, we will examine each of the points/questions presented to staff.

Note: For the record, in the interest of transparency, I have worked on this issue with senior advocacy groups across the nation for the past seven years. I also have been a communications consultant with Canadian pharmacies and others whose products and services are of benefit to the health and well-being of American citizens.
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