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Foreign Drug Access Gains Steam in Senate

WASHINGTON - Americans may soon be able to import cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries, if legislation introduced yesterday by a bipartisan group of senators is passed.

The bipartisan legislation would permit individuals to import up to a three-month supply of prescription drugs from Canada for personal use and allow Americans traveling to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, or any member of the European Union to bring back a 90-day supply of medicine.

After the bill has been in effect for 90 days, it would allow drug importation by pharmacists and drug wholesalers from Canada and, after one year, from the current members of the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Senate sponsors predict that the bill, or some variation of it, has broad enough support that it will probably come up for a vote this year, despite opposition by the Bush Administration and Senate Republican leaders.

Most of the bill's sponsors are Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, but several key Republicans, including Olympia Snowe of Washington, John McCain of Arizona, and Trent Lott of Mississippi, are supporting it.

The Bush Administration is opposed to drug importation, arguing that there is no way to certify safety. The pharmaceutical industry also opposes the bill, claiming that allowing importation of drugs would make it easier for counterfeiters to pass off their products as legitimate.
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