Q&A: Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009

We’ve received a lot of questions from the eDrugSearch.com community about the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009, the proposed legislation that would enable Americans, once and for all, to legally purchase prescription drugs from Canada.

Here some common questions about the bill, along with answers provided by the bill’s sponsors:

Q: Why is this bill necessary?

A: American consumers are charged the highest prices in the world for the same medicines that are available in other major, industrialized nations at a fraction of the cost. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this legislation will save U.S. consumers more than $50 billion over the next decade. The legislation will allow American consumers to import FDA-approved prescription drugs at the substantially lower prices available on the world market.

Q: How will it work?

A: Individual consumers will be able to purchase prescription medicines from registered Canadian pharmacies for their personal use or the personal use of a family member, via mail-order or the Internet. The FDA will be required to make available on its Web site a list of the Canadian pharmacies that are approved to ship prescription drugs to Americans. Drugs imported by American consumers would have to be in a 90-day supply or less, accompanied by a valid prescription.

Q: From what countries can prescription drugs be purchased under the act?

A: Individual Americans can purchase medicines from Canada via online and mail-order pharmacies or the Internet from Canadian pharmacies registered with the FDA. In addition, the bill allows U.S. licensed pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan and pass along the savings to their American customers.

Q: Won’t Big Pharma just shut off supplies to Canadian pharmacies that sell to Americans?

A: For some time, Pfizer, Glaxo Smith Kline, Eli Lilly and others have worked to shut off the supply of drugs to those in Canada that export drugs to American consumers. Under the proposed legislation, such tactics are deemed an unfair and discriminatory trade practice and will not be permitted.

Q: What about Big Pharma’s claims that the proposed legislation would reduce their profits, and that research and development of new drugs would suffer as a result?

A: Drug companies spend a significant (and increasing) portion of their budgets on product promotion. In fact, Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies on average spend nearly three times more on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on R&D. And yet, the pharmaceutical industry never talks about needing to cut back on drug advertising. In addition, American taxpayers heavily subsidize pharmaceutical research both through the tax code and research at the National Institutes of Health.

Q: How much will American consumers save as a result of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009?

A: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the legislation would reduce total drug spending by $50 billion over 10 years, with $10 billion of that in savings to the federal government. It’s important to note that the CBO found these significant savings even after adjusting for the weakening of the U.S. dollar and assuming that the dollar would remain at the same weak level over the course of its estimate. If the value of the dollar were to strengthen, the actual savings could increase substantially.

This needed legislation is currently in committee, where it could easily stall without your support. Please call your Congressman and Senator and ask them to bring the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act to a vote.

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