Agriculture Appropriations Bill To Allow Prescription Drug Reimportation From Canada

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The House on Thursday voted 237-18 to pass a $91 billion fiscal year 2008 Agriculture appropriations bill (HR 3161)with a provision that effectively would allow U.S. residents topurchase lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and other nations, AP/USA Today reports (AP/USA Today, 8/3). Under the provision, FDA could not use federal funds to enforce a ban on prescription drug reimportation.

Earlieron Thursday, the House voted 283-146 to reject an amendment proposed byRep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) to remove the provision from thelegislation. Kingston, who supports prescription drug reimportation,said that he proposed the amendment to establish a record of majorityHouse support for the provision, according to CQ Today.

Criticsof the provision raised concerns about the safety of prescription drugreimportation. "What we are doing is throwing open the gates to everycounterfeiter in the world," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said.

Inan argument against passage of the amendment, Kingston said, "If wewant to make this safe, we can make this safe," adding, "This is acountry that just invented the iPhone. We can figure out how to makethis safe" (Richert, CQ Today, 8/2). Rep. Jo Ann Emerson(R-Mo.) said, "I would prefer to stand up for my constituents inMissouri as opposed to the pharmaceutical companies keeping competitionand low prices out of this country."

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The Bush administration"strongly opposes" the provision, but a policy statement released bythe administration did not include an explicit veto threat (AP/USA Today, 8/3). According to CQ Today,the appropriations bill passed, although more than half of Republicansleft the House and refused to vote on the legislation, "saying theDemocratic leadership handled the bill poorly."

Other Provisions

The appropriations bill includes $18.8 billion in discretionaryspending -- $993 million more than President Bush requested -- with $17billion for USDA. Thelegislation would provide increased funds for food stamps andconservation. In addition, the bill would increase funds for foodsafety by $38 billion at USDA and $28 million at FDA (CQ Today, 8/2). The legislation also would provide $233 million for the Women, Infants and Children program, 4% more than Bush requested (AP/USA Today, 8/3).

The bill also includes a provision under which FDA could not use federal funds to close Office of Regulatory Affairslaboratories. In May, FDA announced a plan to close seven of the 13labs, although FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach on Wednesday saidthat the agency has suspended the proposal to allow time to study theeffects (Fox, Denver Post, 8/2).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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