Stabenow Wins Senate Support to Keep U.S. Treaties Free of Bans against Reimportation of Prescription Drugs
In response to back-door efforts by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to block reimportation of prescription drugs through trade agreements, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) co-authored bipartisan legislation that would keep such reimportation bans out of future trade deals. The U.S. Senate endorsed Stabenow's effort today by unanimously accepting her proposal as an amendment to the fiscal year 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.
"A growing number of my colleagues in both the U.S. House and Senate now agree with me that we must make prescription drugs more affordable for Americans by allowing reimportation of safe, FDA-approved drugs," Stabenow said. "Unfortunately, the industry recognizes that Congress will allow reimportation, and it has worked closely with our trade negotiators to write these special interest provisions into new U.S. trade agreements.
"These trade deals are designed to keep Americans from having access to safe, less expensive prescription drugs, and in some cases these trade deals suppress other nations' development of generic drugs - including generic drugs that could help us combat the global crisis of HIV/AIDS.
"We must stop this manipulation of our trade agreements by special interests, and my legislation would halt this practice," Stabenow said. "I am very pleased my colleagues have agreed to this proposal without dissention or debate."
A U.S. Free Trade Agreement with Singapore carrying the reimportation ban was approved by Congress in 2003, and a similar ban was in the FTA with Morocco, signed by the two countries in June 2004. Most recently, an FTA with Australia went into effect in January of this year with the PhRMA reimportation block in place.
"Although we are not proposing importing drugs from some of those nations, these provisions are setting a dangerous precedent, and they must be removed from the table when the U.S. Trade Representative sits down to negotiate future trade deals."
Stabenow said legislation to allow reimportation remains her goal - and the goal of many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, but the industry's end run with treaty provisions would make U.S. efforts to allow reimportation meaningless. "If the U.S. Trade Representative continues to insert language into trade agreements that prohibit other countries from allowing U.S. citizens to reimport prescription drugs, our work will have been for nothing," she said.
A leader in the fight to allow reimportation, Stabenow's first piece of legislation when she came to the Senate in 2001 would have allowed reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.
The amendment to protect free trade and prohibit bans on reimportation was co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator David Vitter (R-LA), John McCain (R-AZ), Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), among others.