Weather Forecast


Pharmacy bill allows foreign

AP Photo Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., center, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, holds up examples of prescription drugs during a news conference about the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, Wednesday, in Washington on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. introduced the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act Wednesday, which seeks to allow prescription drugs from other countries to be imported into the United States.

The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Dorgan and Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, John McCain, R-Ariz., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., hopes to help lower prescription drug costs throughout the country.

"This is a common sense measure that will save both everyday Americans and the federal government billions of dollars, and improve the overall health of millions of people," Dorgan said. "The U.S. consumers are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and that's unfair."

Bob Treitline, owner and pharmacist at ND Pharmacy in Dickinson said the new federal legislation has its heart in the right place, but it's important patient safety remains the No. 1 concern.

"Do we have concerns? Absolutely. Do we want cheaper drugs? Absolutely," Treitline said. "Sometimes you can't always have your cake and eat it too."

Trietline said there is a definite concern regarding the quality of drugs that would come in, but if there was FDA oversight it could be a good move.

"We have the protection of the FDA and if there's one bunch of folks I trust, it's those guys," Treitline said.

Dorgan said the move would force pharmaceutical companies in the United States to lower their prices to compete with the identical, less-expensive FDA-approved drugs coming into the U.S. from other countries.

The bill would allow U.S.-licensed pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from not only Canada, but also Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Prices in those countries are 35 to 55 percent lower than in the U.S. and the bill's goal is to pass those savings onto the American consumer. According to the Congressional Budget Office the bill would save consumers $50 billion in the next decade and the federal government would save $10 billion.

"For far too long Americans have seen health care costs -- especially prescription drug costs -- increase year after year," McCain said. "Re-importation legislation would allow access to safe and effective prescription drugs at much lower prices than are available in the United States. If enacted, the legislation will provide the much needed relief to American families, especially seniors and others on fixed incomes, who are facing tough economic times."

Treitline said if you look at certain economic factors, the influx of out-of-country drugs could have the opposite effect.

If the supply isn't enough to meet the demand coming from the U.S., Treitline said, the theory of supply and demand could come into play, raising the price of the cheaper drugs.

Treitline said in the end, he doesn't think re-importation is the answer, but it's good the government is considering its options.

"We'd all like to have cheaper drugs. ... but I think we have to get a balance and I don't think re-importation is the answer," Treitline said. "I have to applaud them for looking at all the avenues we can to lower the healthcare costs in the U.S."