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AARP Welcomes Senate Passage of Rx Importation, but Promises to Fight Unnecessary Importation Roadblocks

Looks to House to clear the way for safe, legal importation of lower-priced prescription drugs

The U.S. Senate today approved an amendment that would allow for the safe and legal importation of lower-priced prescription drugs from abroad.

The amendment would legalize the importation of FDA-approved medications from certain countries beginning with Canada, impose strict safety standards to prevent drug counterfeiting, and include important provisions to prevent potential trade obstructions. The amendment was introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"Americans pay among the highest prices for brand name drugs in the world. Today the U.S. Senate told the pharmaceutical industry that we will no longer accept this unfair arrangement where Americans subsidize lower drug prices for the rest of the world," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli.

Along with the amendment passed today, the Senate also passed an unnecessary road block intended to prevent the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs. In a move designed to block the Dorgan-Snowe measure, language was added prohibiting importation of prescription drugs unless the Secretary of Health and Human Services can certify that it is safe to do so. Despite the fact that safety provisions are already built into the bill, this provision is designed to give unnecessary discretion to the Secretary to block importation.

"Pharmaceutical companies already manufacture prescription drugs all over the world and safely bring them into the U.S.," continued Novelli. "In 2004, when faced with a flu vaccine shortage, the FDA was able to arrange the importation of flu vaccine from the European Union in a matter of weeks. Further, there are no similar certification provisions in existence for other products routinely imported into this country. This poison-pill 'certification' amendment is intended to do one thing: preserve the status quo and prevent Americans from having a safe and legal process for accessing lower-priced prescription drugs.

"A vote for 'certification' is a vote against safe and legal importation. As part of our ongoing accountability campaign, AARP will be recording Senators' votes on both the Dorgan-Snowe and the certification amendments. We will inform our members about these votes, and how their Senators voted, Novelli concluded."

The importation of prescription drugs is not the sole solution to soaring drug prices in the U.S. However, AARP believes that a system providing for the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs can serve to put downward pressure on drug prices and will permit consumers to realize savings on the cost of their prescription drugs.

The amendments were made to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 2007 (S. 1082). That bill is still being debated in the Senate and is expected to be voted on in the days to come.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, www.aarp.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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