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Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I support Senator McCain's amendment. That amendment would allow drug importation from approved pharmacies in Canada. I have been a long-time proponent of safe drug importation. I am currently a cosponsor of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, a bill I have worked on for many years with Senator Snowe and Senator McCain.
In 2002 and 2003, I supported amendments similar to the one before us today that would permit the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. In the year 2004, the late Senator Kennedy and I worked together on a bill that would authorize drug importation, but it did not survive the partisan politics of this Chamber.
I then introduced my own comprehensive drug importation bill in 2004. I entitled that bill the Reliable Entry of Medicine and Everyday Discounts Through the Importation of Effective Safeguard Act, and that naturally works out to an acronym. we called it the REMEDIES Act.
In 2005, I combined that bill with the proposal sponsored by then-Senator Dorgan and Senator Snowe. And in 2007 and 2009, we reintroduced the version of that legislation with hopes that our combined efforts would finally lower the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans.
During the health care reform debate in 2009, drug importation had a much better chance to pass than ever before. We had a Democratic supermajority in Congress and we had a Democratic President who supported drug importation in the past. But in backroom deals between the Obama White House and the pharmaceutical industry, those deals prevented us from finally lowering the drug costs for all Americans.
So after all of this decade-and-a-half effort, we are back here again trying to accomplish the same goal with Senator McCain's amendment. I have always considered drug importation a free-trade issue. Imports create competition and keep domestic industry more responsive to consumers. Consumers in the United States pay far more for prescription drugs than those in other countries.
For instance, U.S. prices are, on average, 52 1/2 percent higher than Canadian pharmacy prices. If Americans could legally and safely access drugs outside the United States, then drug companies would be forced to reevaluate their pricing strategies. They would no longer be able to gouge American consumers by making them pay more than their fair share for the high cost of research and development. Because that is a fact. We pay for most of the research and development of new drugs because other countries are getting by dirt cheap and there is not enough money coming in from those countries to pay for all of the research it takes, because, as you know, most of the cost of a drug is the research and development, it is not the manufacture of that little pill or a big pill, for that matter.
In the United States, it is a fact. We import everything consumers want. So why not pharmaceuticals? In fact, I look back at all my years working on trying to free up trade around the world through efforts to pass free-trade agreements, through efforts to get the President trade promotion authority, everything that would make global policies available to American consumers, and I can only think of two things our law prevents consumers in America from importing from other countries when everything else the consumers buy they can buy anywhere in the world if they want to--but not for pharmaceuticals or not for Cuban cigars.
Some opponents of this amendment have concerns about what drug importation would mean to the safety of drugs. Obviously, we have to be concerned about drug safety because that is what the FDA is all about--two things, making sure drugs are safe, and, No. 2, to make sure they are effective.
Everyone who knows me knows I care deeply about the safety of drugs. I would not be standing here today urging support for Senator McCain's amendment if I did not think it would properly protect the safety of the Nation's prescription drug supply chain. The fact is that the unsafe situation is what we have today. Today patients who need a cheaper alternative are ordering drugs over the Internet from who knows where, and the FDA does not have the resources to do much of anything about it. The fact is the McCain amendment would not only help to lower the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans but will also establish a system where American patients can be certain that the drugs they are importing are safe.
The amendment has requirements that a pharmacy must meet before the Secretary may approve them for participation. This includes product testing in labs designated by the Secretary. A list of approved pharmacies will be published on the FDA Web site. Patients who are already forced to purchase their medications outside the United States would be able to access the list to choose a safe option. Additionally, the amendment lays out criteria that must be met before any patient may import drugs from an FDA-approved pharmacy. Patients must have a valid prescription from a physician licensed to practice in our country. The purchase must be for personal use, and the drug must have the same active ingredient, route of administration, dosage form, and strength as a prescription drug approved by the Secretary of HHS.
The McCain amendment would improve drug safety, it would not threaten drug safety. It would open trade to lower-cost drugs, and it would make other consumers around the world start paying for some of the research and development the American consumer is paying such a high price to provide. We should do all we can to get miracle drugs originated and developed, but the American consumer should not be paying the entire bill. We need to make sure Americans have even greater, more affordable access to lifesaving drugs by opening the doors to competition in the global pharmaceutical industry.
Obviously, after a decade and a half, I am continuing to urge my colleagues to join in this effort on the importation of drugs, and in this particular area to give support to Senator McCain and support his amendment. I applaud him for the leadership he has shown in this area over a long period of time.
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