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The Detroit News - US imports everything else; why not drugs?

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The Detroit News

HEADLINE: Letters

U.S. imports everything else; why not drugs?

In his recent column, Thomas Bray said we should let the marketplace work to reduce the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs ("Why Canada is running short of drugs," Nov. 12). Unfortunately, the marketplace is not working because of U.S. laws that stop real competition in this country and because life saving medicine is a necessity, not an option like buying a pair of tennis shoes.

I have sponsored legislation to allow the free market to work, so that American citizens and businesses can purchase prescription drugs at affordable prices. My efforts would allow Americans to reimport Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription drugs from Canada.

The average retail price for a brand-name prescription drug went up 3.5 times faster than the rate of inflation last year. Many highly advertised drugs went up much higher than that. The reason? These companies want money to pay for their exorbitant advertising. The pharmaceutical industry spends about two and a half times as much on advertising and marketing as it does on research.

Tamoxifen, a vital drug for breast cancer patients, costs $340.77 in the United States. In Canada, it is only $39.19. For people who need Zocor to reduce their cholesterol, they have to pay $129.99 here, but their Canadian counterparts can buy it for only $67.72. If you have cancer or a heart condition, you cannot just say, "Well, that's too much. I'll wait until next year to get my medicine." Every day American citizens, young and old, are told of the price of the critical medicine that they need and they must find a way to pay for it or face serious health consequences, possibly even death.

We are able to trade everything else with Canada. We even import their garbage over our objections. Why don't we allow free trade when it comes to prescription drugs?

Also, the legislation I support includes many safety provisions, several of which are tougher than those already in place. Legalizing the reimportation of drugs would actually strengthen the FDA's ability to regulate imported drugs and ensure the safety of them.

It's time we said no to paying the highest prices in the world for life-saving medicine.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

D-Mich.

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