AARP Appeals for Drug Reimportation

March 4, 2004 ( - The nation's largest advocacy group for retired people is jumping into the fray over reimportation of less expensive Canadian prescription drugs with a direct appeal to the pharmaceutical industry.

William Novelli, AARP chief executive, said the group will write to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PRMA) with its plea for drug companies to keep cheaper Canadian drugs available to Americans, the Associated Press reported.

Reimportation supporters argue that the drug industry is fighting the move by numerous state and local governments to cut health-care costs through use of Canadian drugs just to keep domestic prices high. At least five drug companies have limited shipments to Canadian pharmacies to keep drugs from being sold to Americans – citing supply and safety concerns.

“The pharmaceutical industry is not easy to convince. We all know that,” Novelli said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t know if they’ll ever come around on importation. The least we can do is get them to not choke off the supply side, and we’re working on that.”

Thousands of Americans get their prescriptions filled in Canada, where brand-name medicines can cost half the price because of tighter government controls.Importing drugs is illegal in the United States, but people seeking cheaper prices can find ways to do so on the Internet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opposes the practice, saying it cannot guarantee the safety of imported drugs.

Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with Springfield, Massachusetts, Montgomery, Alabama, and officials with other government agencies have given their residents permission to buy drugs from Canadian Internet pharmacies (See Golden State Ponders Canadian Drug Move ).