A senior Bush administration official for the first time said Tuesday that legalizing prescription drug imports was inevitable and would save consumers money.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, whose agency has led the opposition to imported drugs, also said he would advise President Bush not to stand in the way of legislation to make it legal for drugs to be imported from abroad.
"I think it's coming," Thompson said at a news conference devoted mainly to the new Medicare discount drug cards. "I think Congress is going to pass it."
Thompson warned that such a move would be expensive because regulators, to ensure safety, would have to increase inspections of foreign pharmaceutical plants and packages of prescription drugs entering this country.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, told of the policy shift while in Wausau, applauded Thompson's comments.
"I've never understood why we've had to fight the federal government and why they're not on the side of the people trying to get lower-priced prescription drugs," said Doyle. "I'm pleased that Secy. Thompson seems to be signaling that the administration is changing its mind on this and is going to come and help us."
Doyle has been criticized by FDA officials for a new state website that provides residents with information on obtaining drugs from pharmacies that have been examined by Wisconsin officials.