(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll urge President Bush to sign legislation allowing consumers to purchase drugs from Canada if Congress passes this bill in the next few months. Douglas says he’s convinced that safety concerns associated with re-importation can be worked out.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Douglas, who testified earlier this week at a special presidential task force that’s studying this issue, says it’s clear that there’s growing momentum in Congress for the bill.
The U.S. House has already passed a re-importation plan and late last month a bi-partisan group of senators announced their support for the proposal. Following that announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson predicted that Congress would pass a bill this year and Thompson said he would support this effort.
Douglas is optimistic that Congress will pass a bill in the next few months:
(Douglas) “I think more and more leaders in Washington understand how important this is. There are legitimate safety concerns about re-importation, about the potential for tampering with pharmaceuticals. But the greater health concern, as I expressed to the task force, is denying Vermonters and all Americans access to the drugs that they need.”
(Kinzel) Douglas says while some federal officials are concerned about safety issues involving the re-importation of drugs from Canada, the governor is convinced these concerns can be dealt with:
(Douglas) “I pointed out to the task force that there was a recent recall of 100,000 containers of Lipitor within the United States. There’s never been that kind of recall in Canada or reimported drugs. So I think the safety concerns although legitimate can certainly be overcome.”
(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy, who strongly supports the re-importation bill, is worried that the pharmaceutical industry will take steps to undermine support for the legislation if it appears that the measure is going to pass:
(Leahy) “We cannot really stand by and say Americans are going to pay the highest price for prescription drugs of any country in the world. And I think it if you start allowing re-importation you’re going to find the major prescription drug companies are going to say: ‘Let’s settle down. Let’s start talking about pricing as they do with the VA and others.’ Yes if this is the only thing that’s going to bring pressure on them, we have to do it.”
(Kinzel) Backers of the re-importation bill in the Senate may try to attach the provision to a larger budget bill that lawmakers will need to pass in the coming months but that’s a move that would need the support of the Republican leadership in the Senate.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.