Senator Plans to Introduce
Recognizing voter concern about the high cost of medicines, a key Senate committee chairman said yesterday he plans to announce legislation this week that would allow the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, said his legislation would allow importation from Canada first, and later add other industrialized countries. He declined to give details, or to give a timetable for committee action.
With the costs of U.S. drugs rising sharply, whether to allow drug imports has become a big election-year issue. Drugs in Canada, similar or even identical to U.S. medications, are sold for a fraction of the U.S. cost.
Many other senators have rallied around another bipartisan importation bill spearheaded by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.). Democrats are divided on how quickly to push for Senate floor action on drug reimportation, but action seems unlikely for several weeks at the very least.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has repeatedly voiced concern about drug safety. He told reporters he is having conversations with lawmakers on both sides of the issue, and remains concerned about protecting patients "from counterfeit drugs and from drugs that you don't know where their origin actually might be."
EPA Ordered to Clarify
A federal appeals court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review and clarify regulations that would allow new snowmobiles to be sold with pollution controls that do not represent the newest technology available.
Environmentalists challenged the agency's 2002 snowmobile standards in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set standards that reflect emission standards achievable through currently available technology. The EPA standards will be fully implemented by 2012.
The court ruled that while the EPA should not be compelled to require snowmobile manufacturers to install catalyst technology on all vehicles, they must justify applying stricter emissions standards to just 70 percent of the snowmobile fleet.
"Over and over, EPA has argued that its 2002 emissions standards for snowmobiles are as protective as they can possibly be," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew, who represents Bluewater Network and Environmental Defense in the lawsuit.
"The court has disagreed, and sent EPA back to the drawing board."
But EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman emphasized that the court said the agency could take into account the cost of such technology.
"For the most part, the court upheld EPA's decisions in our effort to regulate emissions from snowmobiles," she said. "We will provide the court with additional information on when technology will be available to achieve significant emission reductions from snowmobiles."
-- Compiled from reports by news services and staff writer Juliet Eilperin