AMA may back bill allowing drug imports


ATLANTA - The American Medical Association is weighing support of importing prescription drugs from outside the United States as the nation's physicians address pleas from patients over the high cost of medicines.

The largest U.S. doctor group, representing a quarter-million physicians, is being asked by members to put its considerable lobbying influence behind federal legislation that would find a way to safely import drugs from outside the United States.

Already, several states have bucked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy against importation and set up state-sponsored initiatives to purchase lower-cost drugs from Canada or elsewhere. The issue is expected to come before Congress early next year and could gain momentum should the AMA's 545-member policy-making House of Delegates back some form of importation.

"We owe it to our patients to advocate for safe importation of drugs," Stephanie Stanton, a voting AMA delegate and medical student, said at yesterday's meeting of the House of Delegates. "This is all because of our patients, and it is driven by our patients."

The nation's tab for prescription drugs continues to rise 10 percent to 15 percent a year by most estimates, and an increasing number of patients seek relief by buying drugs from Canada and other countries where prices can be 20 percent to 80 percent cheaper.

Because various resolutions supporting safe importation have the support of large state delegations, including the California Medical Association, a measure putting the AMA on record in support of importation is seen as having a good chance to pass.

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