U.S. senate votes to maintain big pharma's monopoly by blocking competitive imports
The United States Senate recently rejected two separate proposals that would have allowed the importation of cheaper medication from other countries, apparently in order to preserve a deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House.
The proposals were part of a wider effort to reform the U.S. healthcare system, in large part by cutting unnecessary costs.
Drug importation was first proposed by Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, in an amendment to the healthcare bill. The amendment would have allowed U.S. wholesale and retail drug distributors, including pharmacies, to import products from Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan or New Zealand, where price controls keep drug costs much lower than in the United States. The amendment eventually gained more than 24 sponsors from both major parties.
"This issue isn't rocket science," Dorgan said. "The American people are charged the highest prices in the world. They want Congress to stand up for their interests and do something about it."
According to Dorgan and co-sponsor Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and former presidential candidate, drug importation could cut $80 billion off the country's health spending over the next decade.
The United States spends $2.5 trillion on health care every year.
A vote on Dorgan's proposal was blocked on December 10 by fellow Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, who expressed concerns over the safety of imported medications. Like the FDA and the White House, Carper objected that the quality of imported drugs could not be assured.