Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Importation of Prescription Drugs, Hot or Not?

This post is for all of you hack and flackers working up in Sacramento. In light of Governor Schwarzenegger's recent letter to Congress urging them to pass meaningful legislation allowing for the safe and effective importation of prescription drugs.

Since I became Governor, legislators and advocates have been encouraging me to enact legislation making it easier for Californians to import prescription drugs from other countries. I have consistently said I would not sign a bill that encourages foreign importation in violation of federal law. But in my letter to Secretary Thompson, I also urged the Bush Administration to aggressively pursue discussions with our trading partners to achieve fairer pricing of pharmaceuticals in the international marketplace and an equitable distribution of the costs of drug research and development. Sixteen months later, drug prices continue to escalate and there is no evidence that the federal government has been able to bring more equity to the global pharmaceutical marketplace. The Congress must act to allow Americans to import safe prescription drugs.

There are those in California and elsewhere who believe we should impose price controls on prescription drugs or use the importation issue as a covert way to import foreign price controls to the United States. I adamantly oppose efforts to impose price controls on prescription drugs because they will have a chilling effect on the research and development of life saving medicines and harm California's critical biotech industry.

I believe we have an opportunity to use free-market forces to create a more equitable international market and help millions of Americans pay less for their prescription drugs. First, the Congress should demand an end to price controls in foreign countries and vigorously support those pharmaceutical and biotech companies who refuse to sell their products to countries imposing price controls. Second, Congress must pass and send to the President legislation that allows Americans to import prescription drugs from other nations in a manner that protects patient safety and respects intellectual property rights. By simultaneously pushing to eliminate foreign price controls and giving Americans access to more affordable prescription drugs from those same countries, the federal government can promote more affordable medicines for American consumers and a more equitable distribution of the costs of developing the life-saving medicines that benefit us all.

Even though the Governor is calling for the importation of prescription drugs, this letter is nothing but fluff. First of all, Congress is in no position to convince European Countries to give up their socialistic forms of government that make price controls possible. Second, Republicans (the same folks who run the show in DC) aren't too happy with the Governor right now, and I would imagine that this would include Republican Congressional members. Third, this does little to change the current situtation of providing access to prescription drugs for those Californian's most in need. With the failures of both Prop 78 and 79 will this issue be hot once again in Sacramento or will the posturing swirling around who gets the largest piece of the pie from the proposed infrastructure bond overshadow this issue?