Lawmakers reach tentative deal on prescription drug reimportation
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional Republican negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a bill that would allow for the reimportation of prescription drugs from countries who sell them at lower prices, but a final deal on the politically popular measure may not be reached until Thursday at the earliest, congressional staff members said.
The agreement was described as "conceptual" by one source who said members
were waiting to see the legislative language before signing off on it.
The measure is designed to allow pharmaceutical concerns and drug wholesalers, under strict Food and Drug Administration guidelines, to reimport U.S. manufactured drugs that had been sold to other countries, and sell them in the United States at below market prices. That is possible because many governments mandate cheaper prices for drugs imported from the United States.
A White House official said the administration had not read the language.
However, a spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, said he expected the
White House to approve the deal.
"My guess is there is nothing in this bill that they (the pharmaceutical
industry) will like," said Rep. JoAnn Emerson, R-Missouri. "But the goal is to
allow the American people to get lower cost drugs. Our goal was not to make
this easy for the manufacturers to mess it up."
House and Senate Republican leaders announced their support for
prescription drug reimportation last week in effort to address the high cost of
drugs for Americans - a top voter concern - before the end of the congressional
The measure is tied to the controversial, and still unresolved, proposal
to lift food and medicine sanctions on Cuba -- because both are part of the
spending package for the Department of Agriculture.
The Department of Agriculture appropriations bill has been held up for weeks over these
two matters and won't move until both are resolved.
Several congressional sources said Wednesday that a Cuba deal was at hand,
while others insisted it was not.
House and Senate conferees to the Agriculture bill postponed a Wednesday
meeting until Thursday afternoon.
As part of the tentative agreement on prescription drugs, individuals would be allowed to personally import drugs that are approved by the Food and Drug
Administration if the drugs are prescribed for personal use.
Drug manufacturers would be prevented from signing restrictive contracts
with other countries that prevent those countries from reselling drugs to the
Schedule I, II, and III drugs, which include narcotics, would be banned
from the program. And, the law would "sunset" -- or expire-- five years after the program goes into effect.
Democratic congressional aides have also not yet seen the final details of
the agreement, and say they remain "skeptical" about whether it's too watered
down to have a real effect on the cost of drugs for Americans.