November 29, 2007  

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Despite Furious Lobbying Effort, House OKs Importation of Lower-Cost Drugs

When the House approved legislation early Friday (July 25th) allowing Americans to purchase prescription medicine abroad,  the vote marked a defeat for the pharmaceutical industry, which spends millions lobbying Congress, and was repeatedly criticized by lawmakers in both parties for putting profits ahead of patients. Drug-industry subsidized lawmakers tried desperately to pit the controversy as a question of safety - to fend off peoples' hopes of lower prices against the fear of counterfeit drugs.

"The country is going to be flooded with unsafe pharmaceutical counterfeits, over-age pharmaceuticals, pharmaceuticals that don't preserve and protect the safety of our citizens," countered Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who has long worked on drug issues. And FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said the measure "creates a wide channel for large volumes of unapproved drugs and other products to enter the United States that are potentially injurious to public health and pose a threat to the security of our nation's drug supply."

"It's not about safety, it's about money," said conservative Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., practically hissing the word. "There's a woman ... who's dying of breast cancer," he added. "... How do you tell her when she goes to buy tamoxifen that she can't afford it but she could go right across the border to Canada and get it for one sixth or one seventh the cost."

The vote (243-186) capped an emotional debate, supporters repeatedly referring to cancer victims who must pay more for medicine at home than they would in Canada or Germany, and opponents warning of drugs that look legitimate, but are worthless, or even hazardous.
Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota held up two packages of the drug tamoxifen, used to combat breast cancer. "Why is it that Americans have to spend $260 for this life-saving drug when Germans can buy it for $60," he said.
But Rep. W.J. Tauzin, R-La., countered by showing the website of a Canadian prescription drug house. He said FDA officials had purchased anti-seizure medication from the company, but found it was made in India, not Canada. "It is water inside this package," he said.

The measure had wide appeal to consumers - thousands of whom have ridden in buses to Canada in recent years to buy lower-cost drugs. And several lawmakers accused the drug industry of merely trying to protect its own profits. Liberal Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said it had spread "lies, lies, and lies again" in an effort to kill the bill.


"We do believe there is a safety problem," said Mark Grayson, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA. He also said the legislation would import the system of price controls that foreign government impose on drugs. He said he didn't know how much the group was spending to defeat the bill, adding, "We don't discuss that."

The pharmaceutical industry made more than $20 million in political contributions in the past election, with roughly $8 of every $10 going to Republicans, according to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. PhRMA itself gave more than $3 million and spent more than $14 million lobbying Congress on various issues last year. In addition, the organization gave millions last year to a group that aired television commercials on behalf of candidates who backed a GOP-written prescription drug bill.

(To learn the truth about the 'safety' issue, read this:

Current predictions are that the bill will be killed in the Senate - or, if passed - vetoed by president Bush. if you want low-cost drugs made available by legislative action, here's your chance to help.
A massive Internet e-mail campaign is what has brought us this far.

Here is a letter to send your Senator - to find the address, check out the registry at

The Honorable Senator___________

Washington, D.C. 20510

The crisis of costly healthcare can be mitigated if Americans are allowed to import lower-priced, identical FDA approved drugs from other countries. On July 25, the House passed the Pharmaceutical Market Access Act of 2003 (H.R.2427) by a margin of 243 to 186. This bill has strict safety standards in place that will ensure imported prescription drugs as safe as those I buy from my local pharmacy.

This prescription drug importation bill will soon be introduced in the Senate. I insist that you put your full support behind it, despite the intensive and deceptive lobbying efforts you will encounter.

This is my first letter to notify you how important this issue is to me. I understand that the Senate may be voting on this in September, and I will write you again to encourage you to vote for the Senate version of this House bill that will enable Americans to access lower-priced medications that have similar safety standards of this country from other countries.

Please let me know what your position on this drug import bill is now, as I would welcome the opportunity to clarify why it is so important that this bill pass the Senate as well.




City: ST ZIP




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