Amendment to allow drug importation fails
The process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act began in earnest earlier this week, as the Senate held a “vote-a-rama,” before passing the budget resolution ultimately designed to repeal the bill.
During vote-a-rama, debate is limited but Senators are able to offer an unlimited number of amendments. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) took the opportunity to offer an amendment to allow pharmacies to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
In his speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Sanders pointed to an illustration highlighting some of the dramatic drug pricing differentials.
- EpiPen costs $600 in the U.S., $290 in Canada
- Crestor costs $730 in the U.S., $160 in Canada.
- Abilify costs $2,636 (90-day supply) in the U.S., $436 in Canada
Will Congress “have the guts finally to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and their lobbyists and their campaign contributions and fight for the American consumer?” Sanders asked.
Unfortunately, the answer to Sander’s impassioned question came in the form of a failing vote (46-52). Interestingly, the votes didn’t all fall along partisan lines.
Democratic Senators who voted “no:”
- Michael Bennet of Colorado
- Cory Booker of New Jersey
- Maria Cantwell of Washington
- Tom Carper of Delaware
- Bob Casey of Pennsylvania
- Chris Coons of Delaware
- Joe Donnelly of Indiana
- Martin Heinrich of New Mexico
- Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota
- Bob Menendez of New Jersey
- Patty Murray of Washington
- Jon Tester of Montana
- Mark Warner of Virginia
Republican Senators who voted “yes:”
- John Boozman of Arkansas
- Susan Collins of Maine
- Ted Cruz of Texas
- Jeff Flake of Arizona
- Chuck Grassley of Iowa
- Dean Heller of Nevada
- John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana
- Mike Lee of Utah
- John McCain of Arizona
- Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas
- Rand Paul of Kentucky
- John Thune of South Dakota
Clearly, this is a bipartisan issue. Money might be behind some of the “no” votes. Critics point out that some of the key Democrats who voted against the measure, such as Cory Booker (D-NJ), have received big campaign contributions from pharma.
During the campaign, President-elect Trump expressed public support for drug importation. This week, Trump criticized the pharmaceutical industry and its lobbyists for drug prices, saying drug makers are “getting away with murder.” He alluded to the need for price negotiations but was curiously silent on importation.