AARP Throws Weight Behind Drug Reimport Measure

June 16, 2004 ( - One of the nation's most potent lobbying groups has thrown its support behind a measure that would permit the reimportation of cheaper drugs from outside the US.

The AARP threw the weight of its 35 million members behind a Senate bill on Wednesday that would allow people to legally import lower-priced drugs from Canada and other foreign countries.

“It’s no longer a question of whether we should allow the importation of drugs from abroad,” the group representing middle-aged and older Americans said in a statement posted to its Web site. “It’s already happening on a large scale. Millions of AARP members and others are buying drugs from other countries. We need to legalize this, and make sure that a system is in place to guarantee safety.”

The drug bill’s main authors, Senators Byron Dorgan (D., North Dakota) and Olympia Snowe (R., Maine), said the endorsement is a huge boost to the measure. However, the AARP and lawmakers are up against the equally powerful pharmaceutical industry, which is opposed to all legislation that would allow consumers to import drugs. Lawmakers also only have about 40 legislative days remaining this year.

Senator John McCain (R., Arizona), a supporter of the Dorgan-Snowe bill, said lawmakers would try to attach it to another piece of legislation moving through the Senate, according to Dow Jones.

Bill Novelli, AARP’s chief executive, said in a separate Web site statement that the legislation isn’t perfect, but if enacted it would put downward pressure on American drug prices. He said the AARP is establishing a major advertising campaign in support of the bill and plans to lobby lawmakers who haven’t yet signed on to it. The Dorgan-Snowe bill, which has 23 co-sponsors, would give the FDA jurisdiction to regulate drugs coming into the U.S. and would require importers to register with the FDA and be subject to FDA inspections.