Washington With high-dollar advertising and personal visits to lawmakers' districts, drug industry lobbyists are making a last-ditch effort to convince consumers and Congress that a plan to allow foreign drugs into the United States would harm their health.
The multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign is designed to sway people -- particularly senior citizens, a crucial voting bloc -- who are eager to find cheaper medicines.
"We are lobbying member by member. We are talking to anyone who will listen at the 11th hour, and the message is very clear," said Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.
The drug industry fears the legislation could result in price controls like those in some other countries. It also is telling consumers to listen to the Food and Drug Administration, which long has argued that giving consumers open access to foreign drugs could expose patients to unsafe medications.
The drug industry is lobbying aggressively and is the legislation's best-financed opponent. But a high-profile ad campaign has been organized by a senior citizens group.
The Seniors Coalition, a group funded by drug companies, has spent millions on ads, mailings and a phone bank urging people to ask their Congressmen to vote against the bill.
"Very shortly, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on an amendment that will greatly undermine the ability of the FDA to protect you and your family from unregulated, fake and dangerous prescription drugs," the script for the coalition's phone bank says. "This legislation would allow drugs to flood across U.S. borders from all over the world with little or no FDA monitoring to protect your health and safety."
The coalition also has sent an 80-year-old spokeswoman on its staff to campaign against the legislation at senior centers.
The House is scheduled to vote on the bill today.