Nov. 3, 2005 – Joining a small but growing number of local governments seeking a solution to fast-rising prescription drug costs, legislators in one of the nationâ€™s wealthiest counties approved a measure to allow county employees to buy lower-priced medication through Canadian or other foreign suppliers.
Tuesday, the county council of Montgomery, Maryland passed the drug reimportation bill in a 6-2 vote, overcoming opposition from federal officials who had warned that the measure violates federal law.
The reimportation of prescription drugs is illegal under US law. In upholding the restrictions, federal authorities have cited concerns about the safety and efficacy of medication imported from countries that lack stringent pharmaceutical approval mechanisms. Proponents of reimportation, however, insist that policy-makers are more concerned for US drug companiesâ€™ profits than consumer safety and have erected the bans to protect the pharmaceutical industry.
In the 2004 election cycle, the pharmaceutical industry gave $17.6 million to political campaigns, two-thirds to Republicans and one-third to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. President Bush, whose administration has rebuffed pressure to allow reimportation and has aggressively thwarted the flow of drugs from Canada, raked in more than a million dollars in donations from drug companies in the last election cycle.
Despite federal opposition, more than 30 municipalities have enacted laws permitting employees to purchase medications from suppliers in Canada or other countries where government subsidies or other pressures have kept costs down.
"A safe, legal program can save taxpayers millions of dollars and save employees and retirees prescription drug costs," Montgomery Council President Tom Perez said in a statement after the vote. "There is a far greater health risk to Americans from not taking medication they need because of the exorbitant cost than any supposed Canadian problem."