Weekly Standard executive editor and FOX News contributor Fred Barnes falsely claimed that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) "concluded that there would be no savings" in prescription drug costs from a law allowing the importation of drugs from Canada and other industrialized nations. In fact, a CBO issue brief estimated the savings from a House-passed importation proposal at "$40 billion over 10 years, or by about 1 percent" of total U.S. spending on prescription drugs.
From the December 22 edition of FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
BARNES: But to have a huge system where millions of Americans are going to try and get these drugs, you're going to have a system and middleman and importing and a company and all that stuff. And the CBO concluded that there be would be no savings.
The CBO estimated the potential savings from H.R. 2427, The Pharmaceutical Market Access Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed in July 2003. The bill would "require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue regulations permitting pharmacists, wholesalers, and individuals (for personal use) to import prescription drugs into the United States from 25 countries," according to the CBO's analysis of the bill.
The Associated Press explained that despite bipartisan support, drug importation proposals have stalled in Congress due to opposition from the Bush administration and the Senate Republican leadership:
Lawmakers in both parties said they are convinced majorities in both houses of Congress support drug imports because of constituent complaints about fast rising drug prices. [Representative Gil] Gutknecht [R-MN] and others said they would renew their push for importation legislation next year, despite opposition from Republican congressional leaders and the administration.
Several bills in the Senate would have permitted imports from Canada, where brand-name medicines cost one-third or more less. Legislation passed the House last year, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a surgeon, refused to allow a vote in the Senate.