Statement Of Jim Martin, President 60 Plus Association On Importation of Prescription Drugs
August 21, 2000 — The 60 Plus Association is a national, nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy group representing over 500,000 seniors and we are very interested in providing safe and inexpensive prescription drugs to our senior citizens.
We are very concerned with recent amendments to the FY2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would allow pharmacies and wholesalers to purchase prescription drugs outside the United States and then import them into this country for sale. We strongly oppose these amendments.
While we strongly support efforts for cheaper drugs for our seniors, we believe this approach is not the correct one and would risk the lives of seniors since it allows the bypassing of health and safety laws.We believe these amendments would allow the importation of counterfeit and/or unsafe products to enter the U.S. market. (This concern prompted the prohibition of such activity under the Prescription Drug Marketing Act in 1988.)
Food and Drug Commissioner Jane Henney has warned that barring the Food and Drug Administration from enforcing drug import provisions will increase the risk of widespread distribution of counterfeit and contaminated products in the U.S. The argument of proponents sounds convincing– namely, pharmacists and wholesalers buying drugs in other countries with price restrictions or controls would be able to save money and pass the savings on to seniors in this country– but completely ignores safety and health concerns.
For example, U.S. manufacturers ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs while many foreign manufacturers do not conduct such testing, thus contaminated or substandard materials may slip into these products. In addition, U.S. storage temperature requirements for drugs are very strict while these may be lax or nonexistent in some foreign countries.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that any potential savings in acquisition costs by drug wholesalers or retail pharmacies will be passed on to the consumers. Lifting import provisions does not address the underlying need to provide prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.We strongly favor fair prices for prescription drugs for seniors but not at the price of risking their health and safety. We urge you to drop these amendments concerning importation of drugs from the final version of the FY2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill.