The measure, approved by a 389-31 vote as part of a funding package for the US Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for next year, would bar the FDA from spending money to enforce its prohibition on reimports of FDA-approved drugs, the Associated Press reported.
A subcommittee had inserted the bill last month at the urging of Representative Marcy Kaptur, (D-Ohio). Supporters of the move to permit the drug reimportation said it would allow Americans safe access to medications at prices often one-third lower than those available domestically because of government price controls in other countries.
“People from all over the world come to the United States for their medical care, yet Americans are forced to go all over the world for their medication,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel, (D-Illinois), who charged US pharmaceutical companies with artificially keeping drug costs high.
However, Republican lawmakers said they were not concerned about the passage because the drug reimport provision isn’t expected to survive a House and Senate conference committee anyway, a Republican staff member told the Associated Press.
Senate advocates have been seeking an up-or-down, election-year vote on legalizing imports, which has growing bipartisan appeal in Congress despite the opposition of President Bush and Republican leaders in both Houses. Numerous state and local public officials across the country have hopped on the growing bandwagon of support for the Bush Administration to permit the drug reimportation to help keep health coverage costs under control.