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Inside Politics

Bush mulls importing prescription drugs

Cites safety as issue

From Jill Dougherty

• Illinois draws line over imports
America Votes 2004
George W. Bush
Prescription drugs

HUDSON, Wisconsin (CNN) -- With political pressure mounting to allow imports of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, President Bush appeared to move closer to supporting the idea Wednesday -- but only if the safety of the drugs could be assured.

Asked about prescription drug imports during a town hall meeting in Wisconsin, Bush said, "I'm looking at this. ... There's a lot of pressure in Congress for importation."

However, Bush said it is not clear that the imported drugs would be safe.

"What I don't want to do is be the president that says we'll allow for importation, and all of a sudden drugs that are manufactured somewhere else come in over the Internet and it begins to harm our citizens," he said.

"If it's safe, then it makes sense."

Wednesday's remarks were some of Bush's most extensive comments to date on the issue of prescription drug imports, an idea that is particularly popular in northern states close to Canada.

The president's Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, supports imports, and the Bush administration has been under pressure from border-state Republicans, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to allow in cheaper prescription drugs from other countries.

So far, the Bush administration has opposed imports, citing safety. Federal law does allow drugs to be imported at the discretion of the Health and Human Services secretary, who must certify their safety.

Critics have charged that the safety issue is a red herring, noting that most of the drugs in question are actually made by U.S. manufacturers and exported to Canada and other countries.

The pharmaceutical industry opposes allowing reimportation of drugs, saying the price differences between countries reflect market forces and allow companies to recoup their research costs for new drugs.

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