American citizens could obtain drugs from Canada at a lower price, under plans approved by the US Senate. The amendment proposing re-importation passed the Senate by a 55 to 36 vote on 9th July 2009, as part of the Homeland Security funding bill.
Prices of drugs in Canada are far lower than in the United States, and the amendment would allow prescription medicines sanctioned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be purchased either in person or over the internet.
The amendment was proposed by Senator David Vitter, who said in a statement, “This is a huge win for Americans concerned about the lowering of the cost of common, expensive prescription drugs and a major defeat for the big drug companies and their powerful lobbying interests.”
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) opposes re-importation and said that the FDA does not have the resources to monitor the safety of drugs coming into the country.
Currently, American visitors can return from Canada with a three-month supply of drugs, a measure which is supported by the PhRMA.
However, it remains to be seen whether Vitter’s amendment will be kept in the legislation after it goes through the House-Senate talks on a final version of the bill.
Further reading - An in-depth analysis of the US pharmaceutical market, including some background information on legislatory matters, is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: USA (published June 2009)