US presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are “reviewing their support” for measures to allow US consumers to import prescription drugs from overseas, in light of recent scandals including products such as the tainted blood-thinner heparin sourced from China, their advisers have said.

Since the heparin “incident,” the candidates have had a “better understanding of the challenges” which accompany re-importation of prescription medicines, said Obama health adviser Dora Hughes, while Sen McCain’s senior policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin added that they both now realise that the challenges “are greater than before.”

However, the advisers, who were speaking at the annual conference of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) in Washington, stated that their candidates have not abandoned their support for re-importation, but had simply realised “that it would be more difficult.”

The candidates’ campaign websites still state that: “John McCain will look to bring greater competition to our drug markets through safe re-importation of drugs and faster introduction of generic drugs,” and “Obama and [running mate Joe] Biden will allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the US.”

The advisers also told the conference that both candidates continue to strongly back the wider use of generic drugs as a way of controlling health care costs and that they believe the market exclusivity period for biogenerics should be as short as possible in order to get affordable biotechnology drugs to market.

- Meantime, Sen McCain is probably regretting the comments he made in an article published in the current (September/October) issue of Contingencies, the journal of the American Academy of Actuaries.

In his article, which is entitled “Better health care at lower cost for every American,” Sen McCain writes: “Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”