Paying a high price for cheap drugs?

John Dimsdale May 7, 2007
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Paying a high price for cheap drugs?

John Dimsdale May 7, 2007
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SCOTT JAGOW: In Washington this week, prescription drug prices are on the Senate’s agenda. An amendment would open U.S. borders to cheap drug imports from other countries. Supporters claim it’ll save Americans $50 billion in the next 10 years. Critics, including the White House, say be careful what you wish for. John Dimsdale reports.


JOHN DIMSDALE: The amendment allows U.S. distributors to sell drugs from foreign countries that allow Food and Drug Administration inspections.

Co-sponsor, Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota says most countries limit the prices drug makers can charge.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN: The United States is one of the few countries in which they can charge whatever they wish to charge and so they’ve chosen to charge the highest prices in the world to the U.S. consumers.

But that could hurt innovation. John Vernon is with the University of Connecticut.

JOHN VERNON: It would have a substantial impact on eroding the financial incentives of pharmaceutical companies to invest in the discovery of new drugs and continue developing drugs currently being researched.

Vernon sees another problem: Middlemen marketers and distributors are likely to siphon off some or all of the savings before they get to consumers.

The White House is threatening to veto the bill.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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