(Alexandria, VA) — Several members of Congress, led by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), have announced plans to allow Americans to import prescription drugs so they can take advantage of price controls imposed by other countries.
Members indicated that Americans should be able to take advantage of world market prices for drugs. "But there is no such thing as a world market price," according to Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute.
"The genius of markets is that they allow differential pricing so that people and countries with different income levels can afford to buy products and services," she added.
"Imagine if we tried to set a world market price for housing, or cars, or hospital stays, or anything else. Some people would get a good deal but others in less affluent countries would be completely shut out of the market.
"Right now, pharmaceutical companies have very low prices for their products in very poor countries — even giving their drugs away — so people can have access to them. Do Americans want to save a few dollars on drugs at the expense of millions of people in poorer countries who wouldn't be able to afford the drugs at all?" Turner asked.
"And if the prices were set too low — as they surely would be — it would dry up the research dollars for new medicines so that the research-based pharmaceutical industry would basically be put out of business.
"Do we really want to halt the research on treatments or cures for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and even cancer? Some say that government would pick up the slack. Not true. Only about 3% of drugs brought to market have significant involvement by government researchers.
"Drug importation is a short-sighted approach will harm American consumers, both in the short- and the long-run," Turner concluded.
Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a non-profit research organization focusing on health reform. She can be reached at P.O. Box 19080, Alexandria, VA 22320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.