Senator Byron Dorgan (D-SD), who is leaving congress at the end of this term, continues to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and on behalf of American consumers, as he is once again trying to push forward legislation that legalizes drug importation in a manner that could make prescription medication more affordable. In December of 2009, Dorgan introduced an amendment to H.R. 3590: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to legalize drug importation, which received 51 yeas and 48 nays, falling short of the 60 votes needed for passage. Now Dorgan plans to introduce his legislation as an amendment to the food safety bill, which is sponsored by John Dingell (D-Mich). Dingell, however, is an adamant opponent to drug importation and is against attaching the amendment to his bill. Read the details in The Hill.
In response to Dorgan’s plans to introduce the new bill, the pharmaceutical industry claims that it is unnecessary for such legislation now that the new healthcare law will provide health insurance to more Americans. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry has increased prices at the highest rate in eight years, according to AARP. Prices have risen 9.7% in the last year, a fact that lowers the savings effects of the bill for consumers and taxpayers. Moreover, the new law, at this time, matters little to the 45+ million Americans who need immediate relief from the burden of high healthcare. Those without health insurance, and the millions more — many of them seniors — who are under-insured, deserve assistance today.
The measures called for by Senator Dorgan would require a major effort to create new regulatory structures for international wholesale pharmacy importation and might be too much for the cash-strapped FDA, which came out against Dorgan’s legislation this past December. At that time, however, Obama advisor David Axelrod stated that they were still in favor of legalizing drug importation. There may be an intermediate approach that the Obama administration can get behind, which would not require a huge bureaucratic undertaking.
The current statute governing prescription drug importation is unjust because it makes buying medication safely from outside the U.S. a criminal offense. Therefore, it might be enough to just legalize “personal” drug importation, or even to decriminalize the practice, and properly educate Americans on the safety issues and ways to find safe and affordable medication. By doing so, Americans will be better able to afford their medication and the pharmaceutical industry will feel some pressure to stop jacking up prices.Dorgan, Drug Prices, Healthcare Reform, Online Pharmacies, personal drug importation, pharmaceutical companies, phrma, policy