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Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, as we consider H.R. 3161, the FY 2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill, I want to voice my serious concerns about the provision in the bill that would prevent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, from protecting U.S. consumers from the import of unsafe pharmaceuticals.
While we have had a de facto policy of allowing the importation of personal use quantities of prescription drugs from Canada, the bill before us would for the first time allow wholesalers and pharmacists to import bulk quantities of prescription drugs from any country, regardless of origin. The resulting increase in unregulated drug imports into this country would be exponential.
Such an increase would almost certainly lead to a rise in the number of counterfeit drugs and drugs shipped without adequate shipping safety precautions, creating serious health risks for patients.
I understand the need, sometimes the desperate need, for less expensive medications.
To a great extent, this need is a function of the failure of our health care system to uniformly provide adequate health care coverage. For some 44 million Americans, the system fails to provide any coverage at all. And the Medicare Part D doughnut hole continues to make medications unaffordable for many seniors.
We clearly must find a way to make health care, including prescription drugs, affordable to more Americans. But reimportation on this scale is simply the wrong prescription for what ails us.
Even if we were to focus more narrowly on imports from Canada--and keep in mind that this bill would allow imports from any country--no one should assume that the safety issues would be resolved.
Many American consumers who order prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies assume those medicines are coming from Canada. However, this is often not the case.
In December 2005, FDA announced the results of an operation to confiscate parcels containing pharmaceuticals from India, Israel, Costa Rica and Vanuatu, 43 percent of which had been ordered from Canadian Internet pharmacies. Of the drugs being promoted as ``Canadian,'' 85 percent actually came from 27 countries around the globe.
In response to the investigation, then Acting FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach said, ``These results make clear there are Internet sites that claim to be Canadian that in fact are peddling drugs of dubious origin, safety and efficacy.''
This investigation raises serious questions about the form such an importation program would take. Who are the ``wholesalers'' and ``pharmacies'' that would be importing in large quantities and how would they be regulated? How would their operations interface with the existing supply chain? How would FDA protect consumers from fraud or drug contamination?
Congress has previously given HHS the authority to permit bulk drug reimportation, but both the Clinton and Bush administrations declined to use this authority because of the intractable safety issues involved.
I simply cannot support tying the hands of the FDA with regard to the importation of prescription drugs when their safety and effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. I urge a yes vote on the Kingston amendment.
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Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, the wood utilization consortium is made up of 10 universities in 10 different States around the country with varying missions.
I am familiar with the program mainly because of the involvement of North Carolina State University. NC State's contribution to the consortium is focused on wood machining and tooling. The programs help develop innovative production methods and use stronger, longer-lasting tools which are allowing U.S. manufacturers to maintain domestic production and compete in the global economy.
Such work is critical to support the U.S. furniture and lumber industries. North Carolina's furniture industry alone is estimated to contribute $10 billion to the economy.
North Carolina State University's contribution to increased manufacturing efficiency and global competitiveness within this major industry represents only a small component of the wood utilization program. Continued funding is a wise national investment.
I urge defeat of the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 1/2 minutes to my colleague from North Carolina, who represents the main campus of North Carolina State University (Mr. Etheridge).
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