Senators resurrect reimportation with new bill

Two U.S. senators have revived the reimportation debate with a new bill co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of their fellows. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) is teaming up with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on the proposal, which would allow U.S. pharmacies and drug wholesalers to source products from other countries with "tough safety standards."

Allowing importation from countries such as Canada, Japan and European nations would save billions in government spending, the senators said. A similar bill that failed in the previous Congress, analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, would have saved taxpayers $19.4 billion, the statement says.

"It is simply indisputable that Americans pay far too much for prescription drugs, when other countries pay 35-55 percent less," Sen. Snowe said. "When nations institute safe, regulated trade in pharmaceuticals they see results--as Sweden did when it entered the European system of trade and saw a reduction of 12-19 percent in the price of traded drugs. Negotiating concessions is no substitute for instilling market competition--which is exactly what this legislation will do."

Reimportation is anathema to branded drugmakers, of course, because they'd lose more control over pricing. And that similar bill did fail last time around. But the Obama administration has backed the idea in the past, as Pharmalot notes. Whether the idea will go anywhere this time is anybody's guess.

- see the senators' press release
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