Axelrod promises to push for drug re-importation after healthcare reform

A senior White House adviser said Sunday that the Obama administration will push forward on safe re-importation of pharmaceutical drugs after the healthcare reform bill is finished.

As a candidate in 2008, President Barack Obama promised to allow cheaper drugs to be re-imported into the United States from Canada and other countries. He also co-sponsored legislation that would allow re-importation as an Illinois senator. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a key White House ally in the healthcare reform push, has lobbied heavily against re-importation, though, and would likely not support the final bill if it was included in the package.

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Speaking on CNN’s "State of the Union," David Axelrod, Obama’s top political aide, said the White House still favors drug re-importation and wants to move forward on it.

“Let me be clear. The president supports re-importation. As he said, safe re-importation of drugs into this country. There’s no reason why the Americans should pay a premium for pharmaceuticals that people in other countries pay less for,” Axelrod said. “We will move forward on it.”

CNN’s John King countered, “Just not in this healthcare reform?”

“Yes,” Axelrod said. “The president is committed to move forward once we resolve the issues that the [Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] has. That is his responsibility, to protect the American people.”

During debate on their healthcare reform bill, senators tried to attach language that would allow the safe re-importation of drugs into the U.S., an effort that ultimately failed. The House also did not include such a provision to their bill.

The FDA has come out against such legislation, though. In a letter to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), the agency argued that allowing drugs to be re-imported into this country would raise logistical issues as well as safety concerns.