Thompson Says Legal Drug Imports Are Coming

May 5, 2004 ( - Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said legalizing prescription drug imports is inevitable and would save consumers money.

Asked whether legislation currently floating around the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that would permit the legal importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign countries would pass, Thompson responded “I think it’s coming,” according to an Associated Press report. “I think Congress is going to pass it.”

However, he warned the measure would come with a hefty price as United States regulators would step up efforts to ensure safety of imported drugs. This would include increased inspection of foreign pharmaceutical plants and packages of prescription drugs entering this country.

Thompson’s admission at a news conference devoted to the new Medicare discount drug cards marks deviation from the Bush administration’s opposition stance to legislation permitting the legal importation of prescription drugs. Bush and the Republican leadership have maintained there is no way to ensure safety of imported prescription drugs.

The White House has a fight on its hands from not only Congress but also a number of state leaders. Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty started the country’s first state-run Web site that directs consumers to state-approved pharmacies in Canada that sell many drugs more cheaply (See MN Governor Brings Canadian Drug Buying Plan to the Streets). He is also set to testify in front of a government panel studying whether and how prescription drugs could be safely imported.

Responding to Thompson’s remarks, Pawlenty called the comments “a significant signal to those of us who have been advocates.”