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Prescription drugs: reimportation spells relief.

The cost of prescription medicines is one key component of our current health care crisis. In some cases, costs are so high that seniors are forced to choose between life-saving drugs and other necessities.

The cruel irony is that many of these same drugs, manufactured in America, can be purchased at fractions of their U.S. prices in other countries. And it's getting worse. If immediate action is not taken, Americans may soon demand economically damaging artificial price controls. The market must be made to work.


Consequently, I continue to urge Congress to enact commonsense policies to lower the cost of prescription drugs. For example, legislation authorizing the reimportation of lower priced medicine from safe and reputable sources in other industrialized nations would offer short-term relief to increasing costs and encourage further reforms here in America.

Vermont, for its part, will not sit back and watch as the cost of prescription drugs continues to rise. Nor are we content to simply ignore the law that elected officials are sworn to uphold.

More than a year ago, Vermont sought a waiver from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizing a pilot reimportation plan. The goal of the project is to demonstrate how a plan could be safely implemented and serve as a model for other states. The FDA has refused to approve the program.

Consequently, Vermont filed suit against the FDA in U.S. District Court, becoming the first state in the nation to challenge them for blocking a responsible proposal.

We argue in our filing that their position is "arbitrary and capricious, and otherwise unreasonable." Moreover, it is in direct violation of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, which requires the creation of rules permitting reimportation by wholesalers and pharmacists. The Act also orders the FDA to issue guidance describing the circumstances under which they will grant waivers allowing reimportation for personal use--neither of which has been done.

It is my hope that Vermont's leadership will result in a legal precedent that benefits every Vermonter, and every American.

Nevertheless, we must remember that the cost of prescription drugs is one piece of the problem, and reimportation one part of the solution. Congress must take action to increase competition among manufacturers, speed the approval of generic drugs, preserve our ability to pool purchases, and protect state pharmaceutical programs impacted by the Medicare law.

The American people can no longer afford to have much of this effort undermined by the power of special interests.

While reimportation is a workable short-term solution, reforming the American pharmaceutical marketplace as a whole must be a top priority. The ultimate goal must be to get the best possible market prices from our pharmacies here at home.




Governor of Vermont
COPYRIGHT 2005 League of Women Voters
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Title Annotation:SOUNDING OFF
Author:Douglas, Jim
Publication:National Voter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Previous Article:LWV of Minnesota.
Next Article:Democracy at risk!

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