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Bush Administration’s Effective Denial of Drug Importation from Canada Appears to be Due to Power of Drug Money, New Report Reveals

Dec. 21, 2004

Bush Administration’s Effective Denial of Drug Importation from Canada Appears to be Due to Power of Drug Money, New Report Reveals

Importation Can Be Done Safely as Proposed in Senate Legislation Opposed by the Bush Administration, Public Citizen Says

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The findings released today by the Bush administration’s Drug Importation Task Force are highly suspect because of: 1) the task force’s makeup; 2) an intense lobbying campaign by the pharmaceutical industry, which included many former senior officials from the Bush administration; and 3) the industry’s financial support of Bush’s re-election, according to a report released today by Public Citizen. The administration’s task force focused on many of the wrong questions and effectively kicked the issue back to Congress to design a safe and effective importation program – something Congress has attempted to do but has been stymied in by opposition from the administration and Republican leaders.

    Among the findings of Public Citizen’s investigation:

  • Seven of 13 members of the Drug Importation Task Force are Bush political appointees, not career employees. They are people who owe their jobs to a president who owes his job, at least in part, to extensive political contributions and support from the pharmaceutical industry. Moreover, the administration included no independent outside experts on the task force.
  • A total of 14 former senior Bush administration officials have passed through the federal government’s revolving door and are now lobbying for the prescription drug industry, according to lobbying disclosure records on file with the U.S. Senate. At least seven of them have lobbied the administration and Congress on the specific issue of drug importation, the records show, and six of them have lobbied their former agencies (the White House or the Department of Health and Human Services) on the issue. 
  • Two former drug company executives have been placed in influential health policy positions within the Bush administration.
  • Thirteen pharmaceutical company executives and their leading lobbyists in Washington, D.C., together raised at least $2.2 million for Bush’s two presidential campaigns by bundling contributions from employees, colleagues and friends, according to a Public Citizen analysis.

“Christmas came early for the prescription drug industry, thanks to the campaign contributions and intensive lobbying of Washington’s biggest special interest,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “The lump of coal consumers received is continued high drug prices, thanks to the administration’s support for the drug industry.”

Public Citizen supports the concept of importation of prescription drugs from Canada to U.S. pharmacies and wholesalers as outlined in the five points below. Such measures would ensure that the drugs are authentic, have not lost potency in transportation, and that U.S. consumers receive a significant cost benefit. The proposed requirements are: 

  • The manufacturing of the drugs should be done in the United States or Canada in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved facilities.
  • A pedigree, either paper or electronic, should be required that documents the movement of the drug from its origin, either in the United States or Canada, to the pharmacy or wholesaler in the United States.
  • Participating U.S. pharmacies and wholesalers must be registered with the federal government and inspected.
  • A provision should be established to ensure that drug manufacturers cannot get around the law by manipulating the supply of prescription drugs they make available to pharmacists and wholesalers.
  • Importation must result in a significant reduction in prices paid by U.S. prescription drug consumers.

The drug safety provisions outlined above essentially are contained in the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act  (S. 2328), sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

“Despite the administration’s best efforts to obfuscate, a properly run importation program can be safe and save consumers money,” said Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

To view Public Citizen’s investigation, click here.