FDA: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
It is rare that politics and special interests are so glaringly exposed at the FDA. Their recent attempt to police pharmaceuticals from Canada is beginning to backfire. Cris Gupta reports on:
“Live free or die” is the bold state motto of New Hampshire. And in that spirit, NH Governor Craig Benson announced last week that his state will defy federal law and purchase prescription drugs from Canada for Medicaid recipients and prison inmates. The estimated savings would probably top $1.5 million.
On the same day, Boston’s Mayor Thomas M. Menino told reporters that beginning next summer his city will buy Canadian drugs for city employees, creating a projected savings of $1 million per year.
And you can be sure that the FDA isn’t one bit happy about all this. But what are they going to do? Put Boston in jail? …
The New Hampshire and Boston announcements were made only one day after President Bush signed the new Medicare bill into law. At one point the bill contained provisions that would allow U.S. Medicare patients to purchase less expensive Canadian drugs, or U.S. drugs re-imported from Canada at rates much lower than they could find anywhere here at home. But somewhere along the line those provisions were quietly removed from the bill…
Meanwhile, FDA officials continue to maintain that the economics of the situation are of no concern to them. They say it’s a SAFETY issue, implying that Canadian safety standards are not set at the same superior level as those of the FDA. But so far their warnings about safety concerns have done nothing to slow down the sales of Canadian drugs and re-imported U.S. drugs to U.S. citizens. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, we bought more than $1 billion worth of drugs from Canada last year…
According to a CBS evening news “Inside Story” report last week, Boston and New Hampshire and all the buying power of individual U.S. citizens are very small potatoes compared to the largest U.S. customer of Canadian pharmaceuticals: The U.S. government.
The Department of Defense and the Veterans’ Administration are just two government agencies that are allowed a special waiver to purchase drugs from Canada or any other country; something that citizens like you and me can’t do. Not to mention Boston and New Hampshire.
In the CBS report, Michael Valentino – a spokesman for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs – was asked to estimate how much his department has spent on foreign drugs. He said, “It’s been in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the last several years.”
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