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U.S. Senate Health Committee Should Look To Rx Bulk Purchasing To Quell Medicare Debate

by Jerry Flanagan, 6:00 p.m. PST, (415) 633-1320

The next round in the debate over prescription drug reimportation will occur this Thursday morning in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions when Senators will weigh several competing proposals sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.

Though the Medicare law currently bars the federal government from negotiating bulk discounts on behalf of beneficiaries, under several of the pending reimportation bills vendors providing Medicare Drug Discount Cards may be allowed to reimport cheaper Canadian drugs to U.S. pharmacies.

A better option would be to allow Medicare to do what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ("DVA") and the Canadian government are already allowed to do to achieve 30-60% discounts off U.S. made drugs: negotiate bulk discounts directly with pharmaceutical companies.

The pending proposals providing for the reimportation of prescription drugs are at their essence allowing U.S. consumers to piggy-back on Canada's bulk purchasing program. On the other hand, direct bulk discount negotiations by the Medicare program, or in conjunction with the existing U.S. DVA program, would cut out the middleman and circumvent drug company tactics to dry up excess supply in Canada.

All consumers, not just seniors, should be allowed to add their purchasing clout to the buying pool and take advantage of bulk discounts.