- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Sixty-nine percent of Americans support importing prescription drugs from Canada, but more than half oppose importing from other nations, according to a survey released yesterday.

Of the 800 adults surveyed last month by the Polling Company Inc., 54 percent said they oppose importing from countries belonging to the European Union, 41 percent said they oppose importing from other European countries and 41 percent said they oppose importing from Asian countries.

The survey was sponsored by Interamerican College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Kidney Cancer Association and the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. The organizations did not return calls for comment.

Senior citizens — those who might benefit the most from importing drugs — were the least likely of all survey respondents to support importing prescription drugs regardless of their origin.

Congress is considering legislation that would allow Americans to import drugs from Canada and other nations, and some senior groups have expressed interest in importing from places other than Canada.

Participants, randomly selected via a digital dialing service, were asked four questions, including whether they support importing prescription medicines from Canada, if they support importing medicines from European countries, if they support importing medicines from countries in the European Union and whether they favor importing medicines from Asian countries.

Forty percent said they would support importing from countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, and only 31 percent said they would support importing from countries belonging to the European Union. Forty-two percent said they would support importing from Asian countries.

Kellyanne Conway, president of the Polling Company, said the survey results were “fascinating” because they showed that the “health care gatekeepers” — seniors and women — were least likely to support importing from countries.

Ms. Conway said results showed a significant gender gap. Women were less likely than men to support importing medicines regardless of their origin.

Respondents most likely to support importation were those ages 18 to 44.

Many participants answered the questions by saying they were not sure, signaling a high level of uncertainty or a lack of knowledge about current legislative proposals, Ms. Conway said.

Some health care groups say the results signal the need for lawmakers to do more research before passing any importation legislation.

“I think a part of what surprised us looking at the various bills that are being debated on [Capitol] Hill go beyond Canada,” said Steven Gibson, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association. “That really hasn’t been coming out through the media or the grass roots.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) supports drug importation, as long as all products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and subjected to electronic tracking and tracing technology. The group voted to support importation at its semiannual policy-making meeting in December.

AARP also supports current House and Senate bills that would allow importing from Canada. Calls to the AMA and the AARP were not returned.

The American Pharmacists Association also has opposed recent drug-importation legislation.

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