Gutknecht sets town hall meeting on his drug bill

By Edward Felker


WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht, seeking to keep up the interest in his prescription drug reimportation legislation, will have a town hall meeting in Minneapolis on Aug. 25, spokesman Bryan Anderson said Friday.

It is one of three town hall meetings scheduled so far by co-sponsors of the legislation, which the House approved Friday over the opposition of GOP leaders and the pharmaceutical industry.

It was the biggest legislative victory to date for Gutknecht, a 1st District Republican from Rochester, who has sought for the past four years to break legal and regulatory barriers to the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and other industrialized nations.


Drugs produced by American companies but sold in foreign countries often cost far less than in the United States because of discounts negotiated by government health programs.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat from Illinois, intends to have the first town hall meeting in Chicago on Aug. 7. Another is planned for Aug. 19 in the St. Louis area by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican from Missouri. Others may be in the offing.

Gutknecht, Emanuel, Emerson and other backers of the bill appeared at a news conference on Friday to call on the Senate to include their legislation in the $400 billion, 10-year Medicare prescription drug bill currently the subject of a House-Senate conference.

The House vote Friday makes the Gutknecht bill the official House position on the issue. The Senate bill allows reimportation but limits it to Canada and makes it subject to safety and authenticity approval by the federal secretary of health and human services. That approval has been denied by the Clinton and Bush administrations.

"We intend over the next several months to turn up the heat on our friends in the Senate so that we begin to get some action over there and hopefully begin to break down these barriers that cause Americans to pay the world's highest prices for prescription drugs," Gutknecht said.

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