Although his bill to legalize personal drug importation was not passed along with the new healthcare legislation, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has partnered with Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) to continue efforts to make safe and affordable medication accessible to their constituents. They are petitioning the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to allow their states to import prescription medicines from Canada, where price controls mean much lower drug costs for consumers. Dorgan and Schweitzer support personal drug importation because it will mean an estimated $400 million in annual savings for their states, as well as competitive pricing pressure on U.S. drug prices.
The Health and Human Services Secretary’s response to the petition will be both interesting and influential. Sebelius herself supported personal drug importation while she was governor of Kansas. In 2004, Sebelius enrolled the state of Kansas in a program called I-SaveRx, which allows for Internet purchase of prescription drugs from outside the U.S., in part, the same goal Dorgan and Schweitzer hope to achieve. Sebelius’ decision will be influential because current federal law stipulates that if the Secretary says it’s safe and identifies standards and safeguards, drug imports are legal. This fact is seldom discussed, but it could mean that Dorgan and Schweitzer generate the response they are looking for, especially in light of Sebelius’ past record of support on the matter.
In their letter to the secretary, Dorgan and Schweitzer note that residents of their states spent $1.8 billion on prescription drugs in 2008 alone. The high costs of America’s prescription drug market, and seemingly endless price increases (9.1% in 2009) will not go away unless governors and senators like Schweitzer and Dorgan keep the pressure on to “further allow” personal drug importation.Tagged with: Dorgan, Drug Importation, I-Save RX, Schwetizer, Sebelius