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Public Statements

Bipartisan Prescription Drug Importation Letter to Medicare Conference Committee Chairmen

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

July 24, 2003

The Honorable Bill Thomas Chairman, Committee on Ways & Means U.S. House of Representatives 1102 Longworth Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Billy Tauzin Chairman, Committee on Energy & Commerce U.S. House of Representatives 2125 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley Chairman, Committee on Finance U.S. Senate 219 Dirksen Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairmen Thomas, Tauzin and Grassley:

As conference begins on reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of Medicare prescription drug legislation, we urge you to maintain the strong safety requirements pertaining to importation of drugs that are in both bills. As you know, both the House and the Senate passed legislation to provide Medicare beneficiaries with a prescription drug benefit and improve access to more affordable generic drugs for all Americans. We feel it is unnecessary to change current law and deny the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to decide whether drug importation is safe and cost-effective.

Congress has debated the issue of drug importation many times, and in fact, passed the Medicine Equity and Drug Safety (MEDS) Act of 2000. The MEDS Act allows the importation of pharmaceuticals into the U.S. as long as the Secretary of HHS is able to demonstrate to Congress that implementation would: 1) pose no additional risk to the public's health and safety; and 2) would result in a significant reduction in the cost of covered products to American consumers. Since enactment of the MEDS Act, the HHS Secretaries of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations have not been able to demonstrate that drug importation is safe or cost-effective. Therefore, the law has not been implemented to date.

Despite the fact that the Senate has three times unanimously supported passage of this safety/cost-effectiveness contingency trigger on importation legislation, there are those in both the House and Senate who are seeking to eliminate this safety requirement. We do not believe it would be prudent to remove these vital safeguards, especially when Congress is in the process of enacting a Medicare prescription drug benefit that includes improved access to more affordable generic drugs. Moreover, drug importation is opposed by the FDA, two Secretaries of HHS from both Republican and Democratic Administrations, the U.S. Customs Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), even if it is limited only to Canada.

We urge you to oppose efforts to weaken current law that requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to demonstrate that implementation of drug importation will pose no additional risk to the public's health and safety and result in a significant reduction in the cost of covered products to the American consumer.

Senators Signing Bipartisan Prescription Drug Importation Letter to Medicare Conference Committee Chairmen (6/24/03)

1. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

2. Jon Corzine (D-NJ)

3. Thad Cochran (R-MS)

4. Bob Graham (D-FL)

5. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

6. Ernest Hollings (D-SC)

7. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

8. Thomas Carper (D-DE)

9. Pat Roberts (D-KS)

10. Mike Enzi (R-WY)

11. James Inhofe (R-OK)

12. Gordon Smith (R-OR)

13. Richard Shelby (R-AL)

14. Arlen Specter (R-PA)

15. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

16. Mike DeWine (R-OH)

17. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)

18. Jim Bunning (R-KY)

19. Don Nickles (R-OK)

20. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

21. Craig Thomas (R-WY)

22. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

23. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

24. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

25. John Sununu (R-NH)

26. James Talent (R-MO)

27. Robert Bennett (R-UT)

28. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)

29. John Cornyn (R-TX)

30. Pete Domenici (R-NM)

31. Kit Bond (R-MO)

32. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

33. George Allen (R-VA)

34. John Warner (R-VA)

35. John Ensign (R-NV)

36. Trent Lott (R-MS)

37. Ron Wyden (R-OR)

38. John Breaux (D-LA)

39. Christopher Dodd (D-CT)

40. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO)

41. Evan Bayh (D-IN)

42. Ben Nelson (D-NE)

43. Ted Stevens (R-AK)

44. Patty Murray (D-WA)

45. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

46. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

47. Mitch McConnell (D-KY)

48. Judd Gregg (R-NH)

49. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

50. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL)

51. Norm Coleman (R-MN)

52. George Voinovich (R-OH)

53. Richard Lugar (R-IN)

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