Senate Backs Drug Importation

The Senate voted 63 to 28 to advance an amendment cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders to allow importation of safe, FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. "The unfortunate reality is that Americans continue to pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Because of the escalating cost of medicines, many people do not get their prescriptions filled. Many people remain ill, and some die. That's just not right. It's time for Congress to act de

The Senate voted 63 to 28 to advance an amendment cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders to allow importation of safe, FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. "The unfortunate reality is that Americans continue to pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Because of the escalating cost of medicines, many people do not get their prescriptions filled. Many people remain ill, and some die. That's just not right. It's time for Congress to act decisively to make sure every person in this country can afford the life-saving medicines that he or she needs at a price that is affordable," Sanders said. The vote in the Senate on Thursday showed there is more than enough support to attach the provision to the Food and Drug Administration overhaul bill the Senate is debating this week. Said Sanders: "The very simple question is: why do Americans have to pay the highest prices in the world for their medicine? Why, when we import huge quantities of food products from Latin America, China and all around the world, can we not import FDA approved medicine from a small number of drug companies in the most industrialized countries on earth. The answer is that we can and we must. "In many ways, the American people are now giving up on their own government in this area - and are taking matters into their own hands. Several years ago there was an estimate that two million Americans were going across the Canadian border to purchase safe and affordable medicine. The American people want action on this issue, they want us to lower the cost of prescription drugs in this country, and today is the day for us to do that by passing prescription drug re-importation and the Dorgan amendment. "Clearly, the drug companies have been fighting back hard. According to a January 12, 2007, Washington Post article, they have spent some $900 million in lobbying between 1998 and 2005. It has reported that they have on their payroll over 1200 well paid lobbyists - including former leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties. And from 1990 to 2006, they made over $139 million in campaign contributions. "And it is not like the Drug Companies are hurting. According to Fortune Magazine, the top 19 pharmaceutical companies in 2005 made $42.1 billion in profits. In 2004 their profit margin was almost 16 percent, 3 times higher than the average of Fortune 500 companies. USA Today reported that Sanders "spoke in pointed terms about what he described as the "enormous" power of the drug companies over Congress. He noted figures showing that since 1998, the pharmaceutical industry has spent more than $900 million on federal lobbying. The 1,200 registered prescription-drug lobbyists "descend like locusts into the offices of members of Congress and say, 'Don't vote for change. Keep the status quo alive. Make sure that the American people continue to pay the highest prices for medicine in the entire world,' " Sanders said. The American Chronicle wrote that after Sanders delivered his speech, a" visibly emotional Senator Robert Byrd stood to say, "Thank God for Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont. Thank God." That was all he said - it was all he had to say.The reason for his remark was the speech Senator Sanders had just delivered. In a scathing rebuke of the nine-year congressional deference to the pharmaceutical industry, Senator Sanders told the nation what has been going on during that time. What had happened was that the kind of remarks that are normally only heard in homes and gathering places across the country had been said by a Senator - on the floor of the Senate - in front of a camera."• Read the USA Today article: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=273551 • Read the American Chronicle column: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=273554 • Watch Senators Sanders and Robert Casey discus prescription drug prices at a Capitol Hill press conference: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=273552