View Full Version : Flu shot purchase contentious

12-08-2004, 09:35 AM
By Ceci Connolly

Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration said Tuesday it intends to buy 1.2 million doses of flu vaccine from a plant in Germany to ease this year’s shortage. At the same time, health officials said they will miss today’s deadline to report to Congress on the hot-button question of whether Americans should be allowed to buy lower-priced prescription drugs from countries such as Germany and Canada.

Although administration officials contend the two are distinct matters, the juxtaposition of the announcements sparked swift and harsh criticism by elected leaders in both parties who accused the White House of hypocrisy.

“Here we are buying flu vaccine from Germany, and yet they’re sitting on a report that probably says it is dangerous to purchase medicines from other countries,” said Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn. “Why is it that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) can do this safely but your local pharmacist can’t?”

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who briefly held up Senate confirmation of Mark McClellan to run the Medicare program last spring, threatened to use the tactic again to block confirmation of the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The current secretary, Tommy Thompson, has announced he is resigning early next year.

Dorgan said the only reason he lifted his “hold” on McClellan then was that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., promised a Senate vote on legislation to legalize drug imports, also called “reimportation” because many pharmaceuticals are made in the United States.

Frustration over rising cost of prescriptions has spread from people to mayors, governors and lawmakers. In the Medicare drug law passed a year ago, Congress mandated that Thompson file a report on importation by Dec. 8. But Tuesday, Thompson was traveling overseas and said he would not be able to review the document until he returns.

“We’ll get it there very shortly,” he said.

In defiance of the FDA, several states have created programs steering Americans to Web sites of Canadian and European pharmacies they deem safe and reliable. This week, the American Medical Association endorsed drug importation as long as the medications have electronic tracking devices to protect against counterfeits.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has sued the Bush administration in federal district court asking the FDA to write regulations for legal importation. AARP, the nation’s largest lobbying group for people older than 55, has said it will file a brief lending support to the suit, Vermont assistant attorney general Mike McShane said.

Link (http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/news/nation/10366978.htm)