Letter To Senator Stabenow


The Honorable Debbie A. Stabenow

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Stabenow:

Once again the issue of importation of prescription drugs has reared its ugly head– and it represents a danger to all Americans but especially senior citizens. In fact, reimportation of prescription drugs is, indeed, hazardous to the health of America’s seniors.

On behalf of some 20,000 seniors in Michigan and nearly 1 million nationwide, the 60 Plus Association strongly opposes any amendment or bill which would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs.

As we’ve clearly stated the past few years whenever such legislation was considered, reimporation of prescription drugs is a problem waiting to happen. It would pose a serious threat to the safety and health of the American consumer and fail to solve the problem of affordable access to prescription drugs. Frankly, it’s little more than an open door for terrorists and ought to be vigorously opposed by any senator who cares about America’s senior citizens.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and his predecessor, Donna Shalala, and every living former Food and Drug Administration commissioner since 1969 — including present commissioner Mark McClellan — Democrats and Republicans alike, have all publicly stated their opposition to the importation of prescription drugs. They know that reimported pharmaceuticals could well introduce foreign counterfeits into the American distribution system. Also, that proper storage and handling of legitimate pharmaceuticals would not be able to be guaranteed by U.S. law once drugs made here in the States’ left our boundaries, eventually to return to our country after Canadian price-fixing schemes were applied.

We are strongly opposed to any and all reimportation 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.

Two years ago, I was impressed by an article co-authored by former Food and Drug Administration Commissioners Jere E. Goyan and Frank E. Young warning against legislation that would allow the importation of drugs. It should be added that besides Mr. Goyan and Mr. Young, every living former commissioner since 1969, a total of 11, have publicly stated their opposition to the importation of prescription drugs. According to these former commissioners, the importation of drugs poses grave risks for American patients since it lowers safety standards. I certainly want inexpensive prescription drugs for our senior citizens. But we should not sacrifice safety merely to save a few dollars. A quick fix can do extensive harm to seniors by bringing on the market dangerous, adulterated and/or counterfeit medicines. Congress needs to reject amendments offered as riders to an appropriations bill without hearings or testimony from experts. We must guarantee safe prescription drugs, especially for our senior citizens.

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 or allowing “individuals” to bring pharmaceuticals back into the country themselves– 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.

While you may have previously voted in support of reimportation, numerous bipartisan hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee have shown that these amendments will strip existing safety and heath standards for prescription drugs. Please vote to do no harm to America’s senior citizens.

The 60 Plus Association has been and remains on record opposing such legislation. Drug reimportation is bad medicine. It’s hazardous to your health.

60 Plus says finding a fix for affordable drug prices should be done from within, not from without. We strongly support fair pricing for seniors for all prescription drugs, but not at the risk of their health and safety.


James L. Martin