Is the AARP trying to redeem itself?

AARP’s support for the financially irresponsible drug benefit in the Medicare Modernization Act helped ensure its passage. Since then, the AARP has been a little more careful not to be perceived as a shill for the Bush administration on Social Security reform and now on drug re-importation.

In contrast to the pharmaceutical industry’s scare-mongering on reimportation (see my recent post), AARP has taken a more dispassionate look at the extensive European experience with parallel importation. The AARP-commissioned study (Parallel Trading in Medicines: Europe’s Experience and Its Implications for Commercial Drug Importation in the United States) found that:

  • Parallel importation is not only legal, but encouraged by governments, including in countries with strong pharmaceutical R&D
  • There are no documented cases of counterfeit drug supply from parallel imports
  • There is no widespread evidence of drug shortages in exporting countries
  • Problems with repackaging, re-labeling, and placement of consumer inserts exist but are surmountable
  • Cost savings to consumers and health systems are relatively small, because consumers are already covered and drug prices are regulated

The main difference in the US example is that cost savings are likely to be higher and there is hostility from the government.

According to PharmaLive, AARP supports reimportation to put downward pressure on US prices and to assist people who need drugs, not as a long-term solution. For once, I heartily concur with AARP.

June 27, 2005

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