The Issues: Rx Drug Imports

Miss Venezuela Stefania Fernandez, behind, hugs Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza, also of Venezuela, after being wining the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews looks at the Bush and Kerry positions on legalizing drug imports from Canada.

Jim Morrison, an accountant in his fifties, a conservative family man, is a very unlikely kind of outlaw – but just ask him about his prescription drugs

"I take Pravachol for my cholesterol, and this is glucophage," he says.

He admits he imports his drugs from Canada, and he doesn't care if it's against the law.

His partner in this crime is the city of Montgomery, Alabama, the first city in America to import prescription drugs from Canada as part of the health plan for city employees. It has saved taxpayers here a half-million dollars a year. It saves Morrison, the city auditor, almost $3,000 a year.

"How can they sell them to Canada for less than they sell them to us?" Morrison asks.

On the campaign, there are big differences on this issue. Democrat John Kerry supports importing drugs from Canada. Period.

"Look this isn't complicated," Kerry says. "Either you are for importing drugs from Canada or you're not."

It's the president who for years was not for importation. However, recently he said he'd consider it if it can be done safely.

"If it's safe, then it makes sense," Mr. Bush said. "There's a lot of pressure in Congress for importation and so I think it makes sense for us to make sure we can do so in a safe way."

That's a big if to the FDA and industry, who say Canadian pharmacies sometimes ship untested drugs to U.S. consumers. And that some Web sites, claiming to be Canadian, sell counterfeit drugs.

"They don't know where it was made, whether it was made in a dirty kitchen in Thailand," said Alan Holmer, CEO of a pharmaceutical trade group. "They don't know how old it is. They don't know where it's been stored."

Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright calls the safety argument nonsense.

Has he had any complaints about getting a bad drug? "Not one complaint," Bright says.

Any adverse reactions? "We've had not one complaint," he adds.

Jim Morrison says, "I think it's just an issue that the drug manufacturers are using to try to keep their prices inflated high."

Montgomery started its import plan to save money, but this has also become a political protest. This is real America trying to get Washington's attention.

And the message according to outlaw Jim Morrison is that the next president needs a prescription to fix the cost of drugs.