FDA bill signed, importation in serious jeopardy

Despite our best efforts, Congress passed the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (S. 3187) with Section 708 intact. Earlier this week, President Obama signed the bill into law.

Section 708 changes prescription drug importation as we know it. This new provision gives the government the authority to destroy personally imported drugs at their point of entry.

For the last decade or more, the government has simply looked the other way and allowed Americans to import their needed medications from abroad. It started with small numbers of people making cross-border trips to Canada to bring medicine back with them. Initially, importation was a minor annoyance for pharmaceutical companies. But with rising drug costs and the evolution of online pharmacies, the number of people who have turned to importation as an alternative for accessing their prescription drugs at prices they can afford has steadily grown.

Because of this, the drug industry has stepped up its opposition efforts. Clearly big pharma had a role in writing the language of Section 708 and slyly slipping it into the FDA bill, which had a number of good provisions for consumers and broad bipartisan support from the beginning.

Many of you have been contacting us to ask, “What happens next?” In the immediate future, there should be no change in terms of your ability to import prescription drugs. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has two years to come up with
procedures to implement the new law, though we doubt it will take that long.

We are gravely concerned about the long-term impact of this legislation on public health. Over a million people import their prescription drugs each year and millions more skip pills or go without needed medications because they simply can’t afford the exorbitant prices of prescription drugs in this country.

We will be keeping you informed via email and our website as this process unfolds. Now more than ever, it’s critical for people to stand up and get organized to fight against this harmful regulation!

Lee Graczyk, RxRights Lead Organizer