Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, asked Dr. Peter Rost the following hard-hitting questions about drug importation:Enzi: Dr. Rost, you wrote in a January 2005 commentary published in the Star-Ledger that Americans would save $37.8 billion annually from legalized importation. Your findings contradict modeling done by the HHS Task Force, as well as calculations by the Congressional Budget Office, both of whom found savings of about 1-2% of total drug spending.As you state in the editorial, your calculations were based on the assumption that legislation to permit importation would also make it illegal to limit supply. What basis do you have to believe that the Congress would support those provisions and that they would pass Constitutional muster?Rost: The House already passed the Pharmaceutical Market Access Act (or Gutknecht Bill) once. This bill allows drug importation to begin without prior certification by the Health and Human Services Secretary.The new, bipartisan Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act introduced by Senator Byron L. Dorgan and others in February 2005 includes a number of provisions intended to ensure that the drug industry cannot thwart the law and prevent consumers from reaping the benefits of drug importation. The Act would:
- Allow drug importation to begin without first requiring certification by the HHS Secretary.
- Include a non-discrimination provision that would make it an unfair and discriminatory act for drug manufacturers to get around the law by shutting down the supply of prescription drugs they make available to pharmacists and wholesalers, as they are currently doing in Canada. However, these provisions do not "force" drug companies to sell an unlimited quantity of their products in any given country, nor would drug companies be selling their products for a loss in those countries where they do choose to continue selling their products. Therefore, there is no unconstitutional "takings.
- Includes features to prevent a drug company from blocking importation by making subtle changes to a drug, such as changing the color or the place of manufacture, so that it is no longer FDA approved.