Senate Says No To Importing Low-Price Drugs
The Senate voted 51-48 to reject a plan to import low-price prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. The amendment was put forth by North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan (right).
Importing prescription drugs for personal use is a violation of federal law. Dorgan’s amendment would have lifted the ban, allowing access to low-cost medicines from developed countries where the government limits drug prices.
As a senator, President Barack Obama supported drug imports, but his administration now echoes the objections of the pharmaceutical industry that it would cause safety problems.
Both the pharmaceutical industry and the Obama administration were lobbying against the proposal, saying it would not protect people from potentially dangerous or ineffective drugs. Dorgan’s plan would cost drug makers billions of dollars and has bipartisan support.
An alternative plan by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg would allow importation, but only if safety were guaranteed, a guarantee that its detractors say could not be given. Dorgan says Lautenberg’s is offering “a nullifier amendment” to draw people away from his plan, effectively killing it.
White House officials have denied accusations by Dorgan’s supporters that the administration was opposing importation as a way of retaining the drug industry’s support for Obama’s health care overhaul legislation, the president’s top domestic priority.
In June, the industry agreed to provide consumers and the government with $80 billion in savings. Drug makers have spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads promoting the health overhaul effort, making them one of the biggest advertisers in this year’s health care fight, and the administration has little interest in antagonizing its ally.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget office has estimated that Dorgan’s plan would save the federal government $19 billion over the coming decade. Dorgan has estimated it would save American consumers four times that amount.Click here for reuse options!
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