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Inside Politics

Democrats: Lift ban on buying medicines from Canada

U.S.-made prescription drugs sell for 'half the U.S. retail price'
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Gov. Brian Schweitzer questions prescription drugs import policy
start quoteWhy allow bad beef to enter the U.S. from Canada and not allow safe medicine?end quote
-- Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer

(CNN) -- Montana's Democratic governor thinks it "makes no sense" that the United States can import "cattle, hogs and logs" from Canada -- but not cheaper prescription drugs.

Speaking in the weekly Democratic radio address Saturday from Helena, Montana, Gov. Brian Schweitzer said "local pharmacists should be allowed to reimport safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada, where American-made, U.S. taxpayer-subsidized medicine is sold for as little as half the U.S. retail price."

He said that for five years, the government "has had the ability to lower the prescription drug cost for every person in America by as much as 50 percent. In five years, they've not delivered. Since they continue to sit on the sidelines, states have no choice but to do it for themselves."

Safety concerns about Canadian drugs "manufactured by American companies, are unfounded," Schweitzer said.

According to the governor, a top Food and Drug Administration official said last year that "there has never been a single documented case of an unsafe prescription drug coming across the border from Canada."

"In fact, Congress' own General Accounting Office issued a report last year reaffirming that prescription drugs purchased from Canada are just as safe as those purchased in the U.S.," Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer notes that the U.S.-Canadian border had been shut after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in recent years.

"Now, on March 7th the President Bush is planning to open the border again to beef."

Schweitzer said that when Bush was in Montana recently, "We had just one question for him: "Why allow bad beef to enter the U.S. from Canada and not allow safe medicine?"

The administration has contended that buying drugs in other countries is unsafe. U.S. drug companies are thought to be upset at the practice because it would hurt their profits.

Schweitzer, a longtime Montana political figure elected governor last year, has chartered buses since 1999 to bring senior citizens over the border to purchase drugs "at a savings of more than half or one third of what they were paying in the United States."

"On the bus rides I would give the seniors citizens clipboards.

"They would tally all the trucks they saw with Canadian plates heading into the United States carrying cattle, hogs and logs and yet prescription drugs, made in the U.S., shipped to Canada aren't allowed back across the border. This makes no sense."

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