Senator John ThuneCongress is preparing to explore reform of the U.S. health care system, and I believe that it will be a worthwhile debate. There are many ideas for how to expand health care coverage for Americans and how to reduce costs, and many of these proposals will be contentious. There are, however, common-sense solutions that can help reduce the cost of health care with bipartisan support, including allowing Americans to legally purchase safe prescription medications from other developed nations.
This month I have joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, which would establish a process for American pharmacies and prescription medication wholesalers to import medicines from other developed nations, such as Canada, European Union countries, and Japan, where medications are substantially cheaper. Currently, only pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to import medications from other countries. The bill would also allow individual Americans who are traveling in Canada to legally bring medications purchased there back into the United States.
This bill represents a common-sense solution that will spur competition in the pharmaceutical market in the United States and reduce costs for American consumers and for Medicare. Prescription prices in other countries are typically 35 to 55 percent lower than in the United States, and this legislation would allow all Americans to take advantage of those lower prices while still using their neighborhood pharmacy.
Product safety is an important concern with any prescription medication, and this bill includes important safeguards to protect patients and providers. Pharmacies will be subject to inspection to ensure that imported medicines meet safety standards, and importers will be required to provide "chain of custody" documentation to verify that prescription drugs have been handled only by authorized entities.
The debate over how to improve health care in our country will be spirited and based on legitimate philosophical differences about the future role of the federal government. I will always stand for giving patients and doctors the most control over personal health care decisions, and I believe that a competitive market for health care coverage is a good thing. I also think that when we have opportunities to do things that have broad support and immediate benefits, like opening foreign prescription markets to U.S. patients and pharmacies, we should do so.