Importation Compromises Drug Supply Chain Safety

The Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA), representing full-service U.S. healthcare distributors is fully reviewing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Task Force Report on Importation. “The nation’s healthcare distributors are committed, first and foremost to patient safety and the integrity of the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. As such, we are continuing our work with the Administration and Congress to ensure that a safe and secure prescription drug supply chain is the paramount consideration in the debate over drug importation,” said John M. Gray, HDMA President and CEO.

“HDMA and our member company distributors have testified before the HHS Task Force and we’ve been consistently outspoken on the critical importance of assuring patient safety when considering the issues of drug importation. Our focus has been, and continues to be, on three key safety issues we believe must be thoroughly addressed: product authentication, product integrity, and product availability. Each offers significant challenges that require extensive study and consideration before moving forward with any importation proposal.”

Gray continued, “Today as drug counterfeiting and terrorism are front-and-center issues, we urge policymakers to be exceedingly careful before moving forward with any program to import medicines from abroad. HDMA will continue to provide policymakers with fact-based information on supply chain issues as importation is considered. In the meantime, we applaud the continued efforts of HHS to conduct a comprehensive review of the issues and identification of the concerns surrounding importation.”

Statement by Dr. Paul Antony, Chief Medical Officer, PhRMA, on Drug Importation Task Force Report, December 21, 2004

PhRMA looks forward to reviewing in detail the “Report on Prescription Drug Importation” released today by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Task Force on Drug Importation. PhRMA notes the report’s acknowledgment that:

  • drug importation presents substantial safety risks, and foreign governments do not assure the safety of drugs exported from their countries to the United States;

  • the overall cost savings from drug importation would likely be small and, historically, a large portion of any savings have been retained by middlemen rather than being passed on to consumers; and,

  • legalized importation would reduce research and development into new drugs and likely reduce the number of new therapies by as many as 18 new medicines per decade.
Drug importation also risks importing government price controls, which have hurt the ability of foreign countries to create new medicines, and have slowed patient access in many countries to new medicines. The U.S. now researches and develops most of the world’s new drugs. Patients all over the world would lose if government price controls harmed U.S. pharmaceutical research.

The “Pharmaceutical Price Controls in OECD Countries” report issued today by the Department of Commerce confirms that foreign price controls harm Americans by reducing research into new drugs. Taken together, these reports substantiate that importation proposals represent a false promise to American consumers.

Importing medicines from abroad is not a long-term solution to the healthcare challenges patients face. Many safe and cost-effective alternatives to importing medicines already exist, including pharmaceutical company patient-assistance programs that last year provided over 18 million free prescriptions to patients in the U.S. Real solutions begin by ensuring that every patient has access to needed medicines through these and other alternatives. Solutions such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit (set to begin January 2006) contain costs through private-sector competition, and make medicine more accessible and available.

PhRMA supports solutions that help patients, and it is committed to continuing its work to ensure that those who lack prescription drug coverage have access to the medicines they need.

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