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Americans should be afforded access to prescription drugs sold in other countries

Americans often pay 30 to 300 percent more for their prescription drug medications than people in Canada, Europe and other industrialized nations.

Due to prescription drug price controls set by foreign countries, Americans are forced to subsidize the cost of medicines in other countries, and finance a bulk of research and development costs for those drugs. That is simply unfair. Americans deserve to get the prescription drugs they need at a fair market price - not be forced to pay artificially high prices.

Additionally, Americans who purchase the medicines they need in other countries should not be treated like criminals when bringing prescription drugs for personal use back into the United States - a practice commonly referred to as drug "reimportation."

Congress approved a plan last year, with my support, to prohibit Customs and Border Protection from stopping Americans bringing a limited supply of prescription drugs that meet Food and Drug Administration standards into the country for personal use. This common-sense law is helping many Americans who otherwise could not afford their much-needed medication. Unfortunately, this temporary provision will expire Oct. 1, 2007 and unless it is renewed, Customs and Border Protection will once again have the authority to stop Americans at the border from bringing in prescription drugs purchased in other countries.

I recently voted for a temporary measure that would allow Americans to purchase lower-cost prescribed drugs in other countries and bring them into the United States for another year. While I supported this temporary solution, I believe Congress must act to permanently restore fairness to American consumers.

That is why I support a bipartisan plan aimed at providing patients, pharmacists and wholesalers access to the same safe, affordable drugs from other nations that those living abroad currently enjoy. The plan would also require counterfeit-resistant packaging to assure Americans the drugs they purchase in other countries are just as safe and effective as those they would buy in the United States.

This plan is not a perfect solution to the high cost of prescription drugs and health care in our nation, but it would make it easier and safer for Americans to access their much-needed medications at lower prices. And, I believe it is a step in the right direction.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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