30 November 2003

Drug Industry Seeks to Sway Prices Overseas

The legislation passed by Congress this week to establish a prescription drug benefit in the Medicare program specifically forbids the government to use its influence to negotiate lower drug prices. That provision was a top goal of the drug industry in its lobbying on the measure.

The Medicare bill also requires the Bush administration to apprise Congress on progress toward opening Australia's drug pricing system. Drug industry executives said that provision was a sign of how badly their backers on Capitol Hill want to see trade agreements used to challenge foreign government's price-control systems, especially when Americans are flocking to Canada to buy inexpensive medicine.

In the free trade talks, drug industry executives said, the United States is asking that Australia agree that its Pharmaceutical Benefits System pay higher prices for new medicines and make other changes in how it sets the prices of prescription drugs.

We'll just have to trust the Man of Steel and hope the US congress doesn't legislate about Australian wheat, movies, television or anything else before the FTA is signed.

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