Opinion

Price regulation will decisively settle issue of drug reimportation

LETTER — Posted Aug. 2, 2004

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Regarding "Drug reimportation dilemma" (Article, July 5): I continue to be amazed at the political and professional myopia toward the issue of drug reimportation. Your article outlines recent federal legislative attempts to enable safe and reliable reimportation.

Speaker after speaker acknowledges the driving force behind this phenomenon to be affordable cost, but none is willing to address the problem directly. Federal (and state) efforts have been aimed at sanitizing the reimportation process without dealing with its root cause. Can anyone doubt that drug reimportation would all but disappear if there were greater equity between domestic and foreign drug prices? It has been a federal caveat for decades: Social Security is the third rail of politics. Touch it and you die. Can it be that American drug manufacturing profits also are in that category? Why has no one credibly suggested the R word for drug prices? Regulation.

Legislation making drug reimportation more secure, reliable or safe is just nibbling indirectly around the edges of this issue. Reimportation is only a symptom of the high costs of American drugs to Americans. If there is pathology in the reimportation cycle, it is at the earliest step: manufacturers' prices.

Legislation should focus on insurance of reasonable, but not exorbitant, returns on investment for American drug companies that produce similar patient prices across international borders. Then, poof, the "problem" of drug reimportation will vanish as if by magic.

Richard G. Closson, PharmD, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/08/02/edlt0802.htm.

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