Prescription Drug Import Amendment Divides Senate Democrats
The Senate is battling over a proposed amendment that would allow prescription drugs to be imported from other countries where prices are lower.
"Drugmakers intensified their lobbying push Monday against a popular proposal to allow Americans to buy cheaper drugs from other countries, one of several heated disputes that have bogged down negotiations over a heath-care reform bill," The Washington Post reports. The dispute complicated Senate Democrats' efforts to rally 60 pass health reform legislation before Christmas and also "poses a particularly difficult political challenge for President Obama, who co-sponsored a similar bill when he was in Congress and who included funding for the idea in his first budget."
"The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), would allow pharmacies and wholesalers to import U.S.-approved medication from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, where drug costs are far lower because of price controls. The measure has attracted bipartisan support from lawmakers, including Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)." The pharmaceutical industry, however, "has responded with a fierce lobbying campaign aimed at killing the proposal, focusing on Democratic senators from states with large drug and research sectors." (Eggen, 12/15).
NPR: "The Congressional Budget Office has estimated there could be more than $100 billion in savings to U.S. prescription drug buyers over the next decade - $20 billion of which would be for the federal government - if cheaper prescription drugs from abroad were allowed to compete in the U.S. market. But opponents question the safety of the drugs. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg wrote several senators saying she commends the efforts Dorgan has made to reduce risks associated with importing prescription drugs. Still, she concluded his measure has too many unresolved safety issues" (Welna, 12/14).