Importation a "done deal? Don't bet on it.

  • by: |
  • 02/15/2008
Like they say, everything you read in the newspaper is true – except for those things you know about personally.

Case in point: the Wall Street Journal reporting that, regardless of which of the remaining three amigos gets elected in November, “drugs from Canada” is a done deal.

Nope. Here’s why not:

(1) It won’t save any money. Let’s not forget the non-partisan CBO study that showed that such policy would reduce our nation’s spending on prescription medicines a whopping 0.1% -- and that’s not including the millions of dollars the FDA would need to set up a monitoring system.

(2) The drugs being sent to U.S. customers from Canadian internet pharmacies are not “the same drugs Canadians get.” That bit of rhetoric is just plain wrong. Canadian internet pharmacies – by their own admission – are sourcing their drugs from the European Union. And while they may say their drugs come from the United Kingdom, let’s not conveniently forget that 20% of all the medicines sold in the UK are parallel imported from other nations in the EU – like Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Lithuania.

And the important political point here is that when Americans are asked if they want drugs from nations other than Canada – the answer is a resounding “no thank you.”

(3) The state experience has been dismal and politically embarrassing. Remember the high profile “I-Save-RX”program? Over 19 months of operation, a grand total of 3,689 Illinois residents used the program -- which equals approximately .02% of the population. They don’t call him “Wrong Way” Rod Blagojevich for nothing.

And what of Minnesota and Governor Tim Pawlenty’s RxConnect program? According to its latest statistics, Minnesota RxConnect fills about 138 prescriptions a month. That's for the whole state. Minnesota population: 5,167,101.

And remember Springfield, MA and “the New Boston Tea Party?” Well the city of Springfield is now out of the drugs from Canada business.

(4) National Security concerns. According to a recent report from the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force, a global terrorist ring with ties to Hezbollah, is importing counterfeit drugs into America by way of Canada. They are doing so for profit today - but could just as easily do so for more nefarious and deadly purposes. And legalizing importation would only facilitate such actions.

So while the candidates may opt for “drugs from Canada” as a useful political talking point – a way to say “look how tough I can be on those bad drug companies. The real issue lies elsewhere.

When it comes to health care reform, there’s one major policy difference that sets Senator McCain apart from Senators Obama and Clinton – Senator McCain believes in the strengths of a market economy. He sees drug importation as an access issue. The other side sees it as a way to import price controls and a first step towards government-run health care.

Don’t get fooled by the importation rhetoric. It’s nothing but a side-show. And it ain’t gonna happen. It's more dangerous as a smoke screen.

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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