Bush administration should stop obstructing free trade of prescription drugs

Many small businesses in Wisconsin have been hit hard by rising health care costs, and one of the major drivers of this problem is the high cost of prescription drugs.
Although we have within our grasp the means to lower costs through the re-importation of safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada, the federal government will not allow this option to be fully pursued.
Residents and businesses in Canada can purchase prescription drugs for a fraction of what we pay in the United States. I’ve set up a Web site that allows citizens to take advantage of those lower prices, and I have pressured the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to expand this option for small businesses and residents. Unfortunately, instead of supporting the free trade that would help Americans who are struggling to afford their medications, they have stood in the way.
The latest example is an Australia trade agreement negotiated by the federal government that would let pharmaceutical companies limit the importation of prescription drugs to the United States, according to a July 12 article in the New York Times. This trade agreement will serve as a model for future federal trade agreements and strengthen the hold pharmaceutical companies have over the high costs of prescription drugs.
It is time for the federal government to stop siding with the drug lobby and start siding with American citizens.
That is why I am urging the federal government to ensure that future trade deals protect our citizens from price gouging and more heavy-handed trade practices by the drug companies.
The federal government has continually opposed efforts by Wisconsin and other states to give citizens access to safe, lower price prescription drugs. Only recently have lawmakers realized that the Bush administration’s position could have major implications for health policy and programs in the United States, according to the New York Times.
I applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to allow Americans to re-import prescription drugs by including a provision in the annual spending bill for the Agriculture Department and the FDA. I urge the U.S. Senate to approve the measure.
Wisconsin has been a national leader in finding ways to provide affordable prescription drugs to citizens, particularly through the state’s prescription drug Web site, www.drugsavings.wi.gov, that allows citizens to purchase safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada.
Since its launch, Wisconsin’s drug savings Web site has had more than 800,000 hits, with almost 150,000 unique visitors. Citizens use the information provided on the Web site to contact pharmacies in Canada and
receive savings as high as 50 percent.
This Web site isn’t the complete answer to the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs. But it is a step in the right direction. And for those citizens of Wisconsin with the highest out-of-pocket costs, who have been consistently let down by the federal government, it offers real, meaningful help.
We’ve made progress in Wisconsin to provide safe and affordable prescription drugs to citizens, but the Bush administration continues to fight us every step of the way. If the federal government won’t do anything to help our citizens with the high price of prescription drugs, Wisconsin will act on its own.
My Administration will continue to pressure Washington to allow states to re-import prescription drugs, making it easier for all citizens to have access to affordable prescription drugs and allowing states to save millions in taxpayer money.
It is time for the federal government to do the same.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle wrote this column exclusively for the Small Business Times Special Report on The State of Health Care.
August 6, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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