In early January, Senator Lisa Murkowski, along with some other republicans, supported a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders’ which would have allowed for the acceptance of drugs from other countries without going through the FDA approval process.
The amendment failed, but Sanders has not given up. He is now pursuing new legislation to allow for the legal importation of foreign drugs into the US.
Lowering the cost of prescribed drugs is a great idea, but at what costs? No patient is served by a manufactured drug from an unknown source, stored in unknown conditions, contains ingredients passed through unlicensed, foreign middleman who operate beyond US law, with no sufficient safety controls.
Overseas drugs may very well be “less expensive” however there is no regulation for products transshipped through “safe” countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom and thus, Americans would be put at great risk given the unmanaged, unregulated, and mismanaged supply chains found in foreign imports.
The architect for legalizing the import of foreign pharmaceuticals is Bernie Sanders with his much-contested draft of the Affordable & Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act. This bill that Murkowski is supporting would undermine nearly two decades of drug safety policy.
At present the bill does not provide a reprieve for the following:
· Drugs imported for export need not be inspected by Canadian regulatory officials
· The proposed legislation does not prohibit transshipment (i.e., the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, then to yet another destination)
· Would permit the importation of drugs that are misbranded
· Will allow for importation of drugs that are not FDA-approved but instead permit drugs to be made by different manufacturers, using different inactive ingredients and manufacturing processes and, thus, not be the same as the FDA-approved drug
· Allow for drugs that may or may not match the efficacy as their domestic counterpart
Several national conservative groups are beginning to push back on the issue, including the American Conservative Union (ACU). The ACU is reminding republican defectors on the budget amendment, including Murkowski, that the conservative position is to protect Americans by not allowing drugs into the U.S. from other countries. Thier website states:
This isn’t just a national issue. In 2012, the FDA discovered counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs in the United States’ drug supply and has since warned 5 clinics in Alaska to stop buying black-market drugs from unlicensed foreign distributors.
Will Murkowski continue to back Sanders and his bill or will she listen to fellow Republican and conservative leaders and find another way forward to achieve lower prescription drug costs for all Americans? Only time will tell.