February 26, 2009 / 4:38 PM / 11 years ago

Obama's budget supports drug import plan

Pills line the shelves in the pharmacy at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles April 16, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama’s budget backs a plan to allow people to buy cheaper medicines from other countries, which typically offer lower prices than the United States.

“The Budget supports the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) new efforts to allow Americans to buy safe and effective drugs from other countries,” said the plan, released on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear what new efforts the FDA was making to allow such importation, and FDA spokesman Christopher Kelly said there were no details available. Bill Hall, spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees FDA, said more information is expected when Obama releases his more detailed budget in April.

The FDA under the Bush administration generally opposed allowing Americans to buy their own drugs from outside the United States because of safety concerns.

Obama initially supported the idea during his presidential campaign, but his advisers expressed some caution when problems surfaced with batches of the blood thinner heparin that were made with tainted ingredients from China.

Countries such as Canada can sell medicines for less because their governments help control prices.

Drugmakers and other critics have said allowing Americans to directly buy medicines from overseas would deprive the industry of funds needed to research new therapies and will stifle innovation.

The White House sent its budget request to Congress, which will weigh the proposal as it debates final budget legislation and other bills for Obama to sign into law.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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