House Agrees to Soften Borders for Canadian Drug Imports

September 22, 2006 ( - House Republicans agreed Thursday to ban US Customs agents from seizing prescription drugs from Americans bringing them in from Canada, but stood firm on the federal restrictions against purchasing the drugs over the Internet or by mail.

According to the Associated Press, the deal would allow Americans to bring back as much as a 90-day supply of medication – with a prescription – to the US from Canada without being stopped.

The decision was a small victory for Senator David Vitter, (R-Louisiana), who has been leading the fight to make the US-Canadian border more fluid for prescription drugs in an effort to bring down medical costs. Those standing in opposition fear that allowing the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada will compromise the US border, making it more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

“This really breaks the dam, and it shows that it’s only a matter of time before we pass a full-blown reimportation bill,” Vitter said, the AP reported.

Vitter applauded the Senate’s approval in July of a loophole that would exclude Canada from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban against importing prescription drugs from foreign pharmacies, as part of a $31.7 billion Homeland Security Department spending plan (SeeSenate Opens Gate for Prescription Drugs from Canada).

The Louisiana Senator sponsored a 2005 bill that required the packaging of imported drugs to incorporate anti-counterfeiting technologies and a requirement that officials allow countries other than Canada to export drugs to the US (See Senate Committee Endorses Drug Reimportation Provision ).

At the same time the effort to loosen restrictions on Canadian drug imports inches forward, some states and cities are moving in the opposite direction after finding the cheaper drugs only made a marginal dent in medical costs.

After being the first city in the US to buy prescription drugs from Canada, Springfield, Massachusetts announced plans to back out by ending its own health insurance coverage – including the Canadian drug importation plan — and begin enrolling workers and retirees in the state’s health plan (SeeSpringfield to Exit Canadian “Club” ).

Illinois’ program to bring down drug costs – I-SaveRx – came under fire this week, when an audit by the auditor general revealed that, after 19 months of operation, the program was only serving 3,700 individuals and had cost $1 million (SeeAudit Deals Blow to Illinois Drug Import Program).Despite criticism, Governor Rod Blagojevich vowed to extend the coverage to include state employees.