Importation is Bad Public Policy

The Frontiers of Freedom Foundation hosted a briefing for congressional staff on Capitol Hill today about the dangers of allowing the importation of prescription drugs. Speakers at the briefing included Robert Goldberg of the Manhattan Institute, Nina Owcharenko of The Heritage Foundation, Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, and Kerri Houston of Frontiers of Freedom.

The briefing was particularly timely as the House of Representatives prepares to vote next week on legislation sponsored by Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) that would allow the importation of prescription drugs from 26 countries without the requirement of safety certification by the Department of Health and Human Services.

?If you want to finance what happened on 9/11, then go back and tell your bosses to support the Gutknecht bill,? said Robert Goldberg. Goldberg said there would be a real threat to our prescription drug supply from terrorists because under the Gutknecht bill, all you would have to do to taint the supply is invest in contamination-resistant packaging. Under the Gutknecht bill, wholesalers would be required to ship drugs in contamination-resistant packaging as a safety measure. ?Investing in optical scanning technology will allow these drugs to cross the border without inspection,? said Goldberg. Goldberg explained how this legislation is really importation, not reimportation, because the origin of the drugs shipped to the United States would be unknown. The South African government has already said up to 20% of its prescription drug supply is counterfeit.

Goldberg went on to say the only reason we are debating this legislation is because of the highly political issue of prescription drug prices. ?To make a political statement on the backs of Americans by inviting terrorist organizations into our country is unconscionable.?

Nina Owcharenko examined the free-trade arguments some are making in favor of the bill. Instead of importing price controls from other countries, Owcharenko suggested exporting our pricing system to other countries. ?We should demand that countries with price controls start paying a higher price?playing on our terms, not theirs,? said Owcharenko.

?It?s not free trade to import price controls from other countries,? said Grace-Marie Turner. Turner said other countries are not paying their fair share of research and development costs. This bill would have the United States participate in the same pricing system that has ravaged the European pharmaceutical industry and would slowly eliminate the incentives the pharmaceutical industry has to create new drugs in this country. ?What we would be saying if this legislation were to pass is that today?s drugs are more important than tomorrow?s cures,? said Turner.

Kerri Houston showed a videotape describing the illegal prescription drug ring recently discovered between Canada, Los Angeles, and Viet Nam. The videotape showed staffers the unsafe conditions in which these drugs had been handled and packaged, a practice that would explode with the passage of the importation legislation. ?I think Members who signed on early had good intentions, but upon further reflection I think you?ll find this is a very dangerous bill,? said Houston.

–Joe Moser
Galen Institute

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The Frontiers of Freedom Foundation hosted a briefing for congressional staff on Capitol Hill today about the dangers of allowing the importation of prescription drugs. Speakers at the briefing included Robert Goldberg of the Manhattan Institute, Nina Owcharenko of The Heritage Foundation, Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, and Kerri Houston of Frontiers of Freedom.

The briefing was particularly timely as the House of Representatives prepares to vote next week on legislation sponsored by Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) that would allow the importation of prescription drugs from 26 countries without the requirement of safety certification by the Department of Health and Human Services.

?If you want to finance what happened on 9/11, then go back and tell your bosses to support the Gutknecht bill,? said Robert Goldberg. Goldberg said there would be a real threat to our prescription drug supply from terrorists because under the Gutknecht bill, all you would have to do to taint the supply is invest in contamination-resistant packaging. Under the Gutknecht bill, wholesalers would be required to ship drugs in contamination-resistant packaging as a safety measure. ?Investing in optical scanning technology will allow these drugs to cross the border without inspection,? said Goldberg. Goldberg explained how this legislation is really importation, not reimportation, because the origin of the drugs shipped to the United States would be unknown. The South African government has already said up to 20% of its prescription drug supply is counterfeit.

Goldberg went on to say the only reason we are debating this legislation is because of the highly political issue of prescription drug prices. ?To make a political statement on the backs of Americans by inviting terrorist organizations into our country is unconscionable.?

Nina Owcharenko examined the free-trade arguments some are making in favor of the bill. Instead of importing price controls from other countries, Owcharenko suggested exporting our pricing system to other countries. ?We should demand that countries with price controls start paying a higher price?playing on our terms, not theirs,? said Owcharenko.

?It?s not free trade to import price controls from other countries,? said Grace-Marie Turner. Turner said other countries are not paying their fair share of research and development costs. This bill would have the United States participate in the same pricing system that has ravaged the European pharmaceutical industry and would slowly eliminate the incentives the pharmaceutical industry has to create new drugs in this country. ?What we would be saying if this legislation were to pass is that today?s drugs are more important than tomorrow?s cures,? said Turner.

Kerri Houston showed a videotape describing the illegal prescription drug ring recently discovered between Canada, Los Angeles, and Viet Nam. The videotape showed staffers the unsafe conditions in which these drugs had been handled and packaged, a practice that would explode with the passage of the importation legislation. ?I think Members who signed on early had good intentions, but upon further reflection I think you?ll find this is a very dangerous bill,? said Houston.

–Joe Moser
Galen Institute

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About the author