WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. John McCain of Arizona have urged the secretary of Health and Human Services to use her full authority to increase the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries for the benefit of U.S. consumers.  Their action comes as the agency  held a drug pricing forum on Friday and amid revelations of drug pricing excesses in the United States.

“As public concern over rising costs of prescription drugs continues, there is a need to reduce the financial burden that prescription drugs are placing on Americans,”  Grassley and McCain wrote to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.  “Given the priority that voters place on addressing the high cost of prescription drugs, we believe that it is time Congress and the Administration work together to take concrete steps to address pricing abuses.”

Grassley and McCain described the significant statutory authority given to the secretary to increase the importation of prescription drugs under certain conditions, such as certification that the imported drug would be safe and reduce U.S. consumer prices.  They urged importation under certain circumstances, including significant and unexplained increases in price and that the drug is produced in another country by the name brand manufacturer that initially developed the drug or by a well-known generic manufacturer that commonly sells pharmaceutical products in the United States.

Grassley and McCain asked the secretary to outline whether she needs additional statutory authority to undertake prescription drug importation to protect American consumers.

The text of the senators’ letter is available here.