CVS CEO: Legalize Canadian Rx Imports

May 06, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Thomas Ryan, chairman and chief executive officer, CVS, said the high cost of prescription medicines here in the U.S. made it inevitable that people would seek to obtain drugs from outside the country. Rather than ban imports, he said, it was time “to face this issue head on and not look the other way.”

According to Mr. Ryan, the cross-border prescription drug market represents up to $3 billion in annual sales. This number, according to the Associated Press, is higher than estimates generally given for these transactions.

The CVS chief pointed out in his testimony that his opinion on drug imports is not widely shared by others in the manufacture and distribution of pharmaceuticals.

The Bush administration has recently begun to send signals it may change its stance against importation of prescription medicines from outside the country.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, said earlier this week that he expects Congress to pass legislation allowing drug imports. Mr. Thompson indicated he would advise President Bush to sign such a bill into law.

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the CVS CEO’s call to legalize prescription drug imports and the apparent
change of heart Congress and the Bush administration has had on the subject?

We applaud Mr. Ryan’s pragmatic approach to this issue.

It’s been said all along that the prescription medicine discount card made available to Medicare recipients this week was a stopgap measure. The market
is no longer willing to accept substantially higher prices here when consumers know there are cheaper alternatives within relatively easy reach. The prescription drug industry
has some decisions to make, and continuing to fight imports is a battle that can only be won if the prices of drugs available here drop substantially.

George Anderson – Moderator

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