June 20, 2003
Drug Reimportation

This MSNBC story discusses a bill introduced into the Senate, allowing drugs to be reimported to this country from Canada, where the drugs are sold at a lower price than here in the US. It passed in the GOP-controlled Senate, and is expected to pass in the House as well. There was a two paragraph section of the article that I found to be very interesting:

But the provision includes a measure that could prevent it from ever becoming law: It requires the secretary of health and human services to certify that the reimportation can be done safely.
A similar law is already on the books, but former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala would not certify that it could be done without risk to patients. Her successor, Tommy Thompson, said the same.

So let's get this straight: the law is already on the books, but it has not been activated because the current HHS secretary won't sign off on it, and his predecessor (his ideological opposite) also opposed it. Congress decides to create ANOTHER law, knowing that it will still not pass muster.

Sounds to me like the Republicans got rolled on this one; how long do you think it will be before the Nine Dwarfs start squawking about how "this administration is trying to kill the poor, the elderly, and The Children™". The fact that Donna Shalala, who is quite possibly the most liberal HHS/HEW secretary we ever had, also rejected the plan will not receive much discussion from the left, and their allies in the media will conveniently fail to mention it. I'll be looking for the NYT position on the bill tomorrow, to see if they mention the Shalala angle.

I think that the Canadians (and the Europeans, for that matter) are in for an unpleasant surprise if either of these laws take effect. It was mentioned that drug companies may raise their prices on drugs shipped to Canada if they are going to end up back in the United States. Canada's government may set a cap on prices, but they cannot FORCE the drug companies to sell them the drugs at any price. Canada doesn't have a whole lot of leverage, with their relatively small population. If a bunch of popular drugs were suddenly unavailable in Canada because the pharmaceutical firms stopped selling them at below-market prices, I think the whole socialized medicine scheme they have up there would go into a full-scale meltdown. Read this article from CNE Health, a project of the free-market Center for the New Europe.

posted on June 20, 2003 09:22 PM


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