The Senate opened debate on a proposal to allow re-importation from Canada and other countries of safe, low-cost prescription medicine. The proposal, cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, was offered as an amendment to a measure that would overhaul the Food and Drug Administration drug approval program. "Some years ago, as the congressman from Vermont, I put together what turned out to be the very first bus trip to take constituents over the Canadian border to buy lower-cost prescription drugs. That is a day I will never forget," Sanders said in a Senate floor statement. "We took a busload of Vermonters, mostly woman, many of them struggling with breast cancer, and we went from St. Albans to Montreal. I will never forget the look on the faces of those women who were struggling for their lives, when they bought breast cancer medicine at 10 percent of the cost that they were paying in the State of Vermont. The drug was tamoxifen, a widely prescribed drug for those people struggling with breast cancer.
"How do you have a drug manufactured by a company, manufactured in the same factory, put in the same bottles, sold in Canada for one-tenth of the price that that same medicine is sold in the United States of America? How can that happen?
"We should not kid ourselves about what this debate is really about. Most Americans understand that large multinational corporations have enormous power over the Congress. You have Big Oil running up record-breaking profits receiving tax breaks and corporate welfare. You have credit card companies with tremendous power over what goes on in Congress able to charge Americans 25 percent, 28 percent interest rates. Insurance companies are blocking national health care efforts. At the top of the list of powerful, greedy special interests stands the pharmaceutical industry. Since 1988, the pharmaceutical industry has spent more than $900 million on lobbying activities, more than any other industry in the United States of American.
What they have done successfully, year after year, is that when any effort comes up in Congress they descend like locusts into the offices of members of Congress and say, 'Don't vote for the change. Keep the status quo. Make sure that the American people continue to pay the highest prices for medicine in the entire world.'
Since the year 2000, the pharmaceutical companies have contributed almost $250 million in campaign contributions. So what this debate about is not just whether or not we're going to lower the cost of medicine in this country and save billions of dollars for consumers. It is also about whether the Congress of the United States is prepared to stand up to the most powerful special interest in the United States.
I think the arguments are so clear that prescription drug re-importation makes sense. Maybe the year 2007 might be the moment when members of Congress have the courage to stand up and say, "Enough is enough."To view the Senators floor statement click here.