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Stabenow Seeks to Head Off U.S. Trade Deals that Would Ban Reimportation of Prescription Drugs

Location: Wasington, DC

Stabenow Seeks to Head Off U.S. Trade Deals that Would Ban Reimportation of Prescription Drugs

Legislation would halt pharmaceutical industry's manipulation of U.S. trade negotiations

In response to reports that the drug industry is seeking to block prescription drug reimportation by working political backchannels to shape U.S. trade agreements, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow is co-authoring bipartisan legislation that would keep reimportation prohibitions out of future trade deals.

"People may be astounded to learn that the pharmaceutical industry's lobbyists have over the past six years lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative more than they have lobbied the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the industry," Stabenow said. "Knowing that, however, people may not be surprised to learn that recent treaties negotiated by the U.S. contain specific language that prohibits reimportation of U.S. prescription drugs from those new treaty partners.

"These trade deals are designed to keep Americans from having access to safe, less expensive prescription drugs, and in some cases these trade deals suppress other nations' development of generic drugs - including generic drugs that could help us combat the global crisis of HIV/AIDS.

"We must stop this manipulation of our trade agreements by the pharmaceutical industry, and my legislation would halt this practice," Stabenow said.

A U.S. Free Trade Agreement with Singapore carrying the reimportation ban was approved by Congress in 2003, and a similar ban was in the FTA with Morocco, signed by the two countries in June 2004. Most recently, an FTA with Australia went into effect in January of this year with the PhRMA reimportation block in place.

"Although we are not proposing importing drugs from some of those nations, these provisions are setting a dangerous precedent, and they must be lifted from the table when the U.S. Trade Representative sits down to negotiate future trade deals."

Stabenow said legislation to allow reimportation remains her goal - and the goal of many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, but the industry's end run with treaty provisions would make U.S. efforts to allow reimportation meaningless. "If the U.S. Trade Representative continues to insert language into trade agreements that prohibit other countries from allowing U.S. citizens to reimport prescription drugs, our work will have been for nothing," she said.

A leader in the fight to allow reimportation, Stabenow's first piece of legislation when she came to the Senate in 2001 would have allowed reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.

The bill to protect free trade and prohibit bans on reimportation is cosponsored in the U.S. Senate by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). A companion bill in the U.S. House is co-sponsored by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Anne Northup (R-KY).

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