Gutknecht wants free market for prescriptions

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 27, 2001

If U.

Monday, August 27, 2001

If U.S. Congressman Gil Gutknecht has his way in Washington, people will soon save hundreds of dollars on prescription drugs by ordering them from Canada, Mexico and Europe.

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Gutknecht shared his plans with a group of seniors in Albert Lea Friday, saying drug prices in the United States are &uot;outrageously high.&uot;

&uot;Prices here are inflated, and as a public policy maker, I can not stand by and let this happen,&uot; he said.

Gutknecht has authored a bill that will allow individuals to import medicines from pharmaceutical supply houses outside the U.S. where they are priced much cheaper. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration prohibits the practice.

&uot;It (Gutknecht’s bill) allows American citizens to import personal use quantities of safe, FDA-approved prescription drugs made in FDA-approved facilities,&uot; Gutknecht said. &uot;Competition and open markets are the best way to bring prescription drug prices down.&uot;

Gutknecht refutes claims by critics of his plan could jeopardize consumer safety. He said there is no scientific evidence that patients who import medications from industrialized countries face a threat.

&uot;Those are the claims of pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. that don’t want to compete,&uot; Gutknecht said.

The bill would be especially helpful to seniors on Medicare and people with inadequate prescription drug coverage, Gutknecht said. While benefits like Social Security increase on a cost-of-living basis of about 3.5 percent every year, drug prices have been increasing much faster – about 10.5 percent each year.

Marilyn Meyer, a resident of a senior housing complex in Albert Lea, supports Gutknecht’s plans. She hopes it will save her some money. Currently, she pays more than $630 per month for five medications.

&uot;That’s more than my entire Social Security check,&uot; she said.

Gutknecht’s bill passed the House of Representatives in July, but the U.S. Senate has not yet considered the measure.