This week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and FDA Commissioner declaring support for the Trump administration’s drug importation plan but warning about the need to up our game inspecting foreign drug manufacturing establishments. Grassley cautioned that the U.S. must ensure new imports are properly tracked and traced within the supply chain. While there are some details in Grassley’s recently stated position that are a bit blurry, the essence of what the senator is saying is very good. We can use global trade to force down prices on prescription drugs in the U.S. while continuing to work on and improve the safety of our already-existing global pharmaceutical supply.
Senator Grassley has vociferously supported drug importation
for a long time. As reported
in The Hill in 2012, he was intensely critical of President Obama for going
back on his 2008 campaign promise to support dug importation:
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Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who introduced the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019, may well emerge as a major champion for Americans who import medicine because the prices are too high here in the U.S.
An astounding thing happened during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices this past Tuesday. Committee Chairman Grassley asked one of the witnesses, a mother struggling with the cost of insulin for her young adult son, if she had considered importing medicine to afford it.
Think about that.
Under most circumstances, according to the FDA, it’s illegal to import medicine for personal use. And yet at a high-profile Senate committee hearing, the venerable Sen. Grassley seemed genuinely curious why Ms. Sego didn’t get lower-cost medication online from another country.
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Last May, we reported that AARP honored Senator Olympia Snowe (R- Maine) for her ongoing advocacy of policies and initiatives that seek to improve the lives of Americans age 50-plus. The award specifically mentioned her efforts to make safe drug importation legal and more available to help more Americans afford their medication. In our post on this recognition, we predicted that the issue of access to safe drugs would persist in the aftermath of the new healthcare legislation, and we’re now happy to announce that last week Senator Snowe put legalizing drug importation back on the Senate’s agenda.
Senator Snowe has introduced legislation that would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic act to facilitate drug importation that would effectively lower prescription drug prices. Additionally, the bill would increase U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections of international manufacturing plants. S. 319, the proposed Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2011, is similar to Senator Snowe’s co-sponsored bill from 2009, also known as the Dorgan Amendment. For more information on the Senator’s past support for personal drug importation, see our post Canadian Pharmacies and Personal Drug Importation Play Critical Role in Greater Healthcare Benefits for Americans. (more…)
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