New York, NY–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–June 16, 2004–AARP today is endorsing the bipartisan bill (S. 2328) — sponsored by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and 22 cosponsors — to legalize the safe importation of prescription drugs, beginning with Canada. This is another important step to help lower drug prices. We will aggressively work for its passage.
The Medicare Modernization Act is an important foundation, but much more must be done to control the cost of prescription drugs, and to make sure that our members and their families have access to the drugs they need. AARP recently released a study showing that prescription drug prices in 2003 increased at nearly triple the rate of inflation. Americans need affordable prescription drugs now.
Though not a complete solution to the problem of high drug costs, safe and legal importation will help put downward pressure on prices and enable consumers to secure additional savings.
AARP is engaged in a national prescription drug affordability campaign that includes importation as one of several measures to contain prices. Other steps include advocacy to lower state prescription drug spending, litigation, calling on the industry to limit price increases to the rate of inflation, shining a spotlight on prices (our Watchdog program), promoting the use of appropriate generics and speeding their availability to market, and educating consumers about the wise use of medications and the new Medicare law, including the Medicare discount card.
It is a national embarrassment that citizens must purchase from other countries to afford prescription drugs. It is no longer a question of whether we should allow the importation of drugs from abroad. Importation is already happening on a large scale; we must ensure that there is a system in place for guaranteeing safety and cost savings.
The Dorgan-Snowe legislation contains important safety standards urged by AARP, including a system of registration, inspection, and tracking of imported drugs; anti-tampering and anti-counterfeiting technologies; and labeling of imported drugs. The legislation also includes a requirement for a website and toll-free telephone number that consumers can use to locate reputable sites for the purchase of imported drugs.
Also critical to the legislation are measures to prevent pharmaceutical companies from limiting supplies of drugs to entities from which lower cost pharmaceuticals would be imported. These are elements AARP considers important to any legislation.
This bill meets the challenges of designing an importation program that protects the integrity of pharmaceuticals and provides a streamlined process that enables consumers to access lower cost drugs. We will work hard for enactment this year.