Bill to Import Drugs from Canada Fails 52-46

It’s clear that Senators who would vote against such a sensible measure are in the pockets of Big Pharma.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday blasted 13 Senate Democrats for lacking the “guts” to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry after they voted against a measure he pushed to help drive down drug costs by importing them from Canada.

The Vermont Independent and former Democratic presidential candidate said during a Thursday interview he plans to personally speak with the senators who opposed the measure  which failed 52-46 on Wednesday  and try to turn them around. A dozen Republicans voted in favor.

The measure by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sanders would have allowed pharmaceutical distributors and pharmacists to import low-cost medicine from Canada and other countries. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington, Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia all voted against it.

Several senators said they voted for other measures to drive down drug costs and they cited safety concerns as the reason for their opposition to the Klobuchar-Sanders measure.

Sanders said he agrees the medicine should be safe, but he believes that can easily be accomplished.

“If we can import vegetables and fish and poultry and beef from all corners of the Earth, please don’t tell me that we cannot bring in, from Canada and other major countries, name brand prescription drugs of some of the largest corporations in the world,” he said. “That’s a laughable statement.”

The Intercept also has a piece on the recent bill.

Bernie Sanders introduced a very simple symbolic amendment Wednesday night, urging the federal government to allow Americans to purchase pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they are considerably cheaper. Such unrestricted drug importation is currently prohibited by law.

The policy has widespread support among Americans: one Kaiser poll taken in 2015 found that 72 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing for importation. President-elect Donald Trump also campaigned on a promise to allow for importation.

The Senate voted down the amendment 52-46, with two senators not voting. Unusually, the vote was not purely along party lines: 13 Republicans joined Sanders and a majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, while 13 Democrats and a majority of Republicans opposed it.

The safety excuse is mostly a chimera, as most of the drugs that would be imported from Canada were originally manufactured in the United States; they’re just cheaper there, because the Canadian government uses a review board and price negotiation to make drugs more affordable.