Lies. Damn Lies. And Drug Importation

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  • 06/26/2007
Just because you say it enough times doesn't make it true.

Most recent example that proves this maxim is the attempt by certain members of Congress -- in this case U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Marion Berry (D-AR) -- to hide the facts that drug importation is neither safe nor smart.

The Fearsome Four offer the following reasons why drug importation is a good idea. (We offer the facts in bold -- because the truth must be told boldly.)

The Fearsome Four claim that the same brand name drugs cost 35-55% less in other nations then they do in the US.

That's because the nation's of the EU (and Canada) have price controls that equal choice controls for their citizens. Also, the rest of the world unfairly shirks its responsibilities to shoulder their fair share of the burden of research and development. This is what members of Congress should be up in arms about.

The Fearsome Four say that drug importation has been in place in the European Union (where they call it "parallel trade") for more than 20 years with no safety problems.

Believe it or not, their "source" for this is Peter Rost. For the truth we prefer the European Commission who has identified parallel trade as the weak link in the chain for counterfeiters. It's also convenient (although not responsible) to forget that the British regulatory authorities have recently found counterfeit and substandard medicines in their island kingdom -- courtesy of parallel trade.

The Fearsome Four claim the pharmaceutical industry has imported drugs and sold them in the U.S. for decades. In fact, 40 percent of the drugs consumed by Americans today are made in foreign manufacturing plants.

That's right -- in plants authorized and inspected by the FDA. The Four conveniently omit the fact that their legislation would allow in medicines from plants not approved by the FDA. Oops.

The Fearsome Four claim that prescription drug importation will result in $50 billion in direct savings alone over the next decade, a $10 billion benefit to the federal budget.

For this fact they cite a Congressional Budget Office Study. But what the study actually says is that such a program woyuld reduce the drug spend in the US by .01%. And that doesn't include the monies needed to set up an entirely new, international system for drug regulation.

And finally, the Fearsome Four claim that passage of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act will finally assure the security of our drug supply.

Assure the safety of our drug supply? This is the biggest whopper of them all. How will our domestic medicines supply be "safer" when we open our borders to drugs from Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Greece, and Portugal -- to name only a few. Because what the Fearsome Four aren't saying is that "drugs from the United Kingdom" means drugs from all of the 27 EU nations -- many of which have had their own supply chains infiltrated by counterfeits from Russia and elsewhere. They should do their homework.

What happens when pesky facts get in the way of political grandstanding? Good things.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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