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Vitter's View: Access to Cheaper Prescription Drugs Would Provide Real Health Care Relief

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Over the last few weeks, the debate on government-run health care has heated up in the Senate as we debate the Senate's proposed health care bill. Unfortunately, the bill does more to grow government, its influence over us and our doctor's health care decisions and explode our debt than it does to improve health care and lower costs.

One alternative that would actually create cheaper, better health care for Louisianians is a common-sense, tangible solution that I have long advocated -- allowing reimportation, which would lower the cost of prescription drugs by letting Americans buy safe FDA-approved drugs in Canada where they are sold at much lower prices. This week, I joined with a bipartisan group of senators in offering an amendment to do just that.

When I travel the state speaking with many of you, and, especially our seniors, one of the top concerns raised about health care is the expensive cost of necessary prescription medications that need to be taken on a regular basis -- making that cost a major dent in many family budgets.

Earlier this summer, following a lengthy battle, the U.S. Senate approved my reimportation amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that allows Americans to legally import safe, FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada into the United States. Opposition to the amendment was strong, particularly among the big-spending drug industry, which did everything it could to kill this policy, but we were ultimately successful in passing that amendment.

This accomplishment marked a huge victory for seniors and Americans seeking cheaper medications and a big loss for the lobbyists of the big drug companies. But as important a victory as securing that provision was, we still need to push for comprehensive prescription drug reimportation. That's what this week's reimportation amendment seeks to achieve.

I've often said that instead of a 2,000 page bill that would implement sweeping, radical changes to our health care system, we should tackle targeted problems that can be addressed specifically and directly to make a real impact in lowering the cost of health care. Prescription drug reimportation is a prime example.


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