Drug Reimportation May Stall McClellan Medicare Bid

February 25, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Mark McClellan's refusal to permit the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada while heading the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may stall his nomination as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

>Senators John McCain (R – Arizona) and Byron Dorgan (D – North Dakota) have threatened to hold up McClellan’s nomination to run the federal Medicare program “until there’s a full and complete explanation of why he will not make prescription drugs from Canada available to Americans,” McCain told a panel of state governors in Washington.   Further, McCain said he would use parliamentary maneuvers to force votes in the Senate on the volatile issue, according to a Washington Post report.

FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts though was undeterred by the threats, and said the FDA has no intention of backing off its aggressive pursuit of cities and states that promote illegal drug importation. “We’re not going to go away,” he told the Post.

>Some governors though have taken matters into their own hands.   At the governors meeting, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor Jim Doyle said his state will launch an Internet site this week to steer residents to a limited number of Canadian mail-order pharmacies that Wisconsin officials deem safe and reliable, in public defiance of the FDA.   

>Doyle’s announcement follows the public creation of a similar Web site by Minnesota’s Republican governor Tim Pawlenty.   At the time of the Web site’s launch, the FDA expressed its displeasure, but to date, no enforcement action has transpired.

>The FDA has be waging war on the public relations front about the possible danger importing prescription drugs from Canada can pose.  “When you buy drugs online, you’re really putting yourself in a buyer-beware situation,” said Pitts in the launch of a pamphlet distribution campaign in California (See  Officials Kick Off Golden State Anti-Canadian Drug PR Effort ).   “We can’t allow the Internet to become the 21st century drug cartel.”

Despite the repeated warnings issued by the agency, a bevy of states and municipalities have looked intothe possibility of a Canadian drug reimportation program as an alternative to higher priced medications for sale in the United States(See  Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program ).