Statement on International Drug Parity Act of 1999 (H.R. 1885/S. 1191

June 9, 1999

Statement on International Drug Parity Act of 1999 (H.R. 1885/S. 1191)

Safe Drug Reimportation Bill Would Save Consumers Billions
by Leveling Playing Field for Drug Prices

Public Citizen welcomes the Senate and House introductions of the International Drug Parity Act of 1999. H.R. 1885 is sponsored by Reps. Marion Berry (D-Ark.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and eight others. S. 1191 is sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) and two others.

“This important legislation can save U.S. consumers billions of dollars by allowing the safe reimportation of American-made, FDA-approved prescription drugs from foreign distributors,” said Peter Lurie, M.D., medical researcher at Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “This bill challenges current U.S. laws that protect a double standard for drug prices — high at home, low abroad.”

Currently, only U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to reimport drugs. S. 1191 levels the international playing field for drug prices by allowing American wholesalers, distributors and pharmacists to reimport prescription drugs made in the United States that were shipped to foreign distributors. The bill provides for a labeling and record-keeping system to ensure that all reimported drugs meet U.S. safety standards.

“The International Drug Parity Act reverses discriminatory pricing practices by American pharmaceutical manufacturers who charge Americans much higher prices than they charge foreign consumers for the same U.S.-manufactured drugs,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The bill would make it legal to reimport U.S.-made drugs and sell them to U.S. consumers at the lower foreign price.”

Studies by Public Citizen?s Health Research Group and others demonstrate that many U.S.-made pharmaceutical drugs cost as much as 20 to 50 percent less abroad because foreign governments negotiate lower prices with American pharmaceutical companies. The International Drug Parity Act permits American distributors to bring brand name medications made in the United States back into our country at those reduced prices.

“Americans, especially our senior citizens, should not subsidize lower drug prices for the Swiss or the French,” Claybrook said. “If foreigners can enjoy the benefits of U.S. pharmaceutical research and pay less, so should we.”

Pharmaceutical interests contend the legislation may open our borders to unsafe drugs. Lurie responded: “That?s nonsense. These drugs are made by Americans in American factories according to American standards with American consumer protections.”