It looks like election time is coming up. Dougie Duncan has had the County file suit against the FDA because the FDA rejected a request to grant a waiver allowing the county to reimport drugs from Canada. Drugs in Canada are often much less expensive than in the United States because they are subject to price controls set by the Canadian Government. Duncan applied for the waiver after the County Council passed a bill requiring him to start the program last fall. The Council originally passed a bill establishing the program in 2004 over Duncan's objection. Currently, U.S. law forbids the reimportation of prescription drugs because their is no way to confirm their safety or original origin. Critics of the FDA's position say that this is ridiculous that drugs from Canada are safe. The drugs are so safe that in a 2003 letter to The Washington Post a Health Canada Assistant Deputy Minister said, "The Government of Canada has never stated that it would be responsible for the safety and quality of prescription drugs exported from Canada into the United States, or any other country for that matter." Oops.
This case seems pretty sure to lose as a federal judge through out a similar suit filed by Vermont late last year. Recognizing the losing position that the state was in, the Attorney General decided not to appeal last November. The Post points out that the suit was filed as Duncan prepares his run for the Governor's mansion and he tries to broaden his appeal to seniors and liberals.
The Motley Fool has a great article on why programs like this are destined to fail. First, the Canadian market is substantially smaller than the U.S. market and drug companies don't need to sell to Canada. They can take two actions: (1) limit the quantity of drugs they sell to Canada based on historical demand or (2) stop selling to Canada altogether. I guarantee you, if drug companies take either of these actions, the Canadian government will make the exportation of prescription drugs illegal and MoCo won't have anyone to buy the drugs from. There are signs that some drug companies are already moving in this direction. Pfizer, for example, cut off several Canadian wholesalers in 2004. Canada, itself, has taken some steps by cracking down on Internet pharmacies that sell to American customers.
Of course, some have called for reimportation on a national level, but that would likely guarantee action by drug companies and Canada both. Even without action, a 2003 study from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that even if fully implemented, reimportation "would probably not produce substantial savings to the federal government," and did not score the bills' importation provisions as generating savings.