Senators To Propose Canadian Drug Bill

April 21, 2004 ( - A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is planning to introduce legislation permitting the immediate importation of prescription drugs from Canada and later from Europe.

Under terms of the proposed legislation, a fee would be levied on foreign distributors of drugs to pay for increased safety and quality assurance monitoring. Reimportation from Canada would start immediately; European imports would begin a year later, according to a Boston Globe report.

Among the sponsors is Edward Kennedy (D – Massachusetts), who is expected to be joined by Republican cosponsors John McCain of Arizona and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Democratic cosponsors Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

The Senate has received a large amount of pressure from a number of supporters of Canadian prescription drug reimportation. The influential senior lobbying group AARP has begun advertising on television this year in favor of Canadian importation.Additionally, 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 (See AARP Appeals for Drug Reimportation ).The concept also is supported by the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, states which have established Web sites where citizens can purchase prescriptions from Canadian Internet pharmacies.

This pressure has in turn led to greater support for a reimportation plan from Republicans leaders of the Senate, which could lead to a confrontation with the Bush White House. The White House has remained steadfast against plans to reimport prescription drugs from Canada, citing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerns that importing drugs could provide channels for counterfeit or improperly stored products.

The voting public though consistently supports the idea of importing drugs from Canada.Some 65% of those polled for the Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs called for a relaxation of the current Bush Administration opposition to drug reimportation (See Survey Reflects Strong Canadian Drug Backing ).