Thursday, February 1, 2007

Medicare Drug Negotiation Legislation and a Drug Reimportation Bill––Will They Be Merged?

Legislation to give pharmacies and drug wholesalers the ability to take advantage of lower drug prices in places like Canada, where government controls produce much lower prices, has been introduced in the new Congress.

Unlike bills that would only give consumers this ability to import drugs—something lots of people are doing anyway—this would turn the market upside-down by letting the big U.S. pharmacy companies and drug wholesalers do it.

That means that health plans and large, self-insured employer groups could directly benefit from a drug reimportation scheme.

In the last Republican Congress, the votes were likely there to pass a drug reimportation bill but Republican leaders in both houses blocked it.

Now, with both houses led by Democrats, it is very possible we will see a drug reimportation bill make it through this Congress.

A new bill introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), as well as Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) in the House, would establish the framework for wholesalers and retailers to purchase FDA-approved drugs from FDA-approved manufacturing facilities in foreign nations. In addition, the bill would require the FDA to regulate the shipments of prescription drugs reimported (originally manufactured in the U.S.) back into the U.S for personal or commercial use.

President Bush has said he will veto such a bill.

The question is not whether there are enough votes to pass such a bill in both houses, but whether there are the two-thirds votes necessary to override a veto.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see this bill eventually merged with a compromise drug negotiation bill that focuses on the one-of-a-kind drugs the Snowe/Wyden bill is targeted on.

Earlier posts on the Medicare Part D drug negotiation issue.
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