Is It OK to Buy Prescription Drugs in Other Countries?
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An upcoming conference could inject some insight and objectivity into the complex, often emotional contest over pharmaceutical reimportation.

Newswise - Pat McKercher hopes an upcoming University of Michigan conference can inject some insight and objectivity into the complex, often emotional contest over pharmaceutical reimportation.

"The issue is rapidly coming to the forefront of just about every debate of prescription drug coverage," said McKercher, director of the Center for Medication Use, Policy and Economics at the U-M College of Pharmacy. "Our goal for the center is to encourage responsible use of pharmaceuticals, so we are striving for balanced, objective debate of the benefits and risks."

The conference is Oct. 29-30 at Campus Inn, 615 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor.

McKercher said academic pharmacists have a special role in tackling the tough question of whether Americans should be allowed to buy prescription drugs from outside the U.S. In particular, those in Michigan are caught up in the issue because so much of the state's population has easy access to Canada, where American buyers frequently get their pharmaceuticals.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has lobbied against legislation allowing reimportation, in part arguing the Food and Drug Administration cannot guarantee the safety of drugs Americans buy outside of the U.S. and that such buying behaviors are a disincentive to future research investment. But advocates contend buying drugs from countries like Canada where government controls keep prices significantly lower is one way to control rising health care costs. These and other opinions will be represented by a wide range of participants, including:

--John Dingell, D-Dearborn, 15th District of the U.S. Congress. Dingell considers prescription pharmaceuticals and a comprehensive drug benefit under Medicare for all seniors top priorities.

--Chris Ward, president of Ward Health Strategies. Ward served as Cabinet Minister for the Ontario government 1987-1990 and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health in 1985.

--Ilisa B.G. Bernstein, Senior Advisor for Regulatory Policy, Office of the Commissioner for U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

--David Gross, Senior Advisor for Policy, AARP.

--W. Michael Dickson, professor of pharmaceutical and health outcome sciences at the University of South Carolina. His research interests include international pharmaceutical regulation and price comparisons.

McKercher, who came to academia with experience that included nine years as executive director of corporate policy initiatives at Pharmacia & Upjohn, will serve as a moderator for discussions.

The Center for Medication Use, Policy and Economics is hosting the reimportation conference with sponsorship from AstraZeneca, and support from Aventis and the Michigan Pharmacists Association.

For details on the U-M reimportation conference: