(CNSNews.com) - Prescription drugs re-imported into the United States by consumers trying to save money pose serious safety concerns, says a conservative public policy group.
The American Legislative Exchange Council says its health task force has unanimously passed a resolution opposing the illegal importation of prescription drugs that may be counterfeit, contaminated, mislabeled, mishandled or expired.
"Unanimous passage of this resolution by our Health and Human Services Task
Force sends a strong message," said Duane Parde, ALEC's executive director.
"It is clear that legislators firmly believe that the American health care system is the best in the world, and the FDA should be allowed to do its job to protect Americans from potential dangers of illegal prescription drugs."
"Those looking to Canada or Mexico for cheaper medications are asking for trouble," said Jim Frogue, director of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force.
"Domestic and international counterfeiters and assorted criminal elements are very good at what they do, he said, adding that low-income, uninsured Americans are at greatest risk of being victimized.
"Members of Congress and federal employees do not have to put their health on the line because they are allowed to choose from an array of high-quality private plans, all of which provide excellent drug coverage," Frogue pointed out.
"If Congress wants to remedy this issue, they need look no further than their own,
personal health plan," he said.
The American Legislative Exchange Council describes itself as the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual membership organization of state legislators. It says 99 of its alumni serve in the U.S. Congress.
Political hot potato
The demand for cheaper prescription drugs has political overtones in this election year.
Democrat John F. Kerry supports the reimportation of U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada. His website says, "John Kerry...will fight to pass reimportation so seniors can get safe, quality, affordable prescriptions."
Congress is once again considering legislation that would allow the reimportation of drugs that are made in this country, then shipped to Canada where they are sold at a lower cost.
But the Bush administration, the FDA, and the prescription drug industry oppose the idea, saying there's no way to guarantee the safety of reimported drugs.
Critics say the safety argument is bogus. They accuse the Bush administration of standing up for drug industry profits. And they accuse the pharmaceutical industry of putting profits ahead of people.
The pharmaceutical industry says it uses the profits from prescription drugs (sold at higher prices in the U.S.) to pay for more research that leads to the development of new and better drugs. If the profits dry up, the industry says, American consumers will lose out in the long run.