Legislative maneuver focuses on right to purchase Canadian drugs

In March, bills to finally legalize the purchase of Canadian drugs by U.S. citizens were introduced in both houses of Congress. With a solidly Democratic Congress, the bills seemed to be a legislative slam dunk.

But with politicians kicking around big-picture healthcare issues, smaller pieces of legislation like this one (as well as the similarly worthy Healthy Workforce Act) have been put on the back burner.

Now, thanks to some clever maneuvering by longtime Canadian pharmacy advocates in the Senate, including Byron Dorgan and John McCain (pictured above), Canadian drug reimportation is back on the forefront of the legislative agenda.

Last week, Dorgan (D-ND) proposed the “Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009″ to be introduced as an amendment to an anti-smoking bill that is expected to pass Congress. McCain backed Dorgan by insisting on a vote on the amendment.

Said McCain on the Senate floor:

This issue has been around for a long time … We should address it. It is important to the American people. It really does have a lot to do with the [Food and Drug Administration] with the pharmaceuticals in this country and availability.

At least one observer, Cole Werble at the IN VIVO Blog, thinks the chances for getting drug reimportation passed may be improving.

The environment around the reimportation debate is changing also. When the proposal first came up, opponents were able to raise the convincing threat of unsafe or poorly manufactured products from outside the US slipping into the domestic drug supply if reimportation were passed.

However, with many manufacturers outsourcing production of active ingredients to a wide variety of low-cost manufacturing locales, they are effectively eroding their own defense-of-quality argument. Domestic suppliers (brand and generic) have had enough well-publicized problems assuring the quality of their products with components from overseas to create a more favorable environment for reimportation.

Mark my words here — if Dorgan and friends can get Congress to vote on Canadian pharmacies, they will vote for them, because that is what (according to the most recent polling) 70 percent of the American people want.

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