As a presidential candidate, President Barack Obama said he supported individuals’ rights to import cheaper drugs from other countries provided the FDA beefed up its inspections to ensure the imports are safe. His new budget plan backs up that claim, according to Reuters. The plan, released earlier this week, says it “supports the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) efforts to allow Americans to buy safe and effective drugs from other countries.”
However, an FDA spokesperson says no details were available on those “new efforts” the agency will undertake to ensure quality control, though a spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, says more information will be available when Obama releases the more detailed budget in April.
The Bush administration largely opposed the idea because of safety concerns. One cannot soon forget the toll tainted heparin took on the U.S. just last year. More than 80 people died and hundreds more were sickened when vials heparin imported from a China manufacturing plant were found to have been contaminated. FDA admitted then that it didn’t have sufficient staff to properly inspect all food and drug manufacturing plants on foreign soil.
Countries such as Canada sell medicines for much less than in the United States because the government helps control prices. Critics of importation say that buying drugs from foreign countries would leach vital funds from the U.S. drug industry that otherwise would be used to research new therapies and innovations.
In the past several months, the FDA has stepped up quality control measures by setting up offices overseas to inspect food and drugs being imported into the U.S. The first offices were placed in China.