Monday afternoon the Senate voted 49-40 for an amendment sponsored by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, that preserves the safety and competitiveness of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. The amendment requires the administration to certify the safety of any imported prescription drugs; advocates of drug importation wanted to skip that critical safeguard.
The Washington Times had a straightforward lead:
The Senate yesterday derailed a move to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from Canada and other countries by making them meet strict U.S. standards.
The bipartisan 49-40 vote for safety certification for imported drugs saved President Bush from having to veto the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization bill, which he promised to do if it opened the door to potentially dangerous drug imports.
The AP story, meanwhile, offered the usual interpretation/analysis/dance of reporter subjectivity:
WASHINGTON – In a triumph for the pharmaceutical industry, the Senate on Monday killed a drive to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from abroad at a significant savings over domestic prices.
How about this instead?
WASHINGTON – In a triumph for consumer health and continued pharmaceutical research that promises to save millions of lives, the Senate on Monday killed a drive to import foreign price controls by allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from abroad.
As the late Milton Friedman wrote in 2004:
We are deeply concerned about proposed legislation to remove pharmaceutical companies’ ability to control the importation of their products. The goal of this legislation will be to reduce prices in the American market by imposing other nations’ price controls on us. If this attempt succeeds, American consumers would get the short-term windfall of lower prices, but they would end up unnecessarily suffering and living shorter lives–because promising new therapies would be delayed or not even developed. Even the threat of price controls reduces the incentive to develop new drugs.
A view that’s shared across the political spectrum, or at least it was during the 2003 debate over the Medicaid prescription drug benefit. This from the Progressive Policy Institute, the research arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
Importing foreign price controls would deliver a severe blow to a robust pharmaceutical industry, which the U.S. dominates. Price controls would limit the financing and suppress incentives for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to be innovative. The basic problem is that public officials are likely to set prices wrong.
Supporters of foreign price controls promise to pursue the issue, over and over again, until they succeed. Funny how populists who rail against unfair foreign competition want to hand over our domestic drug pricing to foreign governments.
Seems inconsistent…and unsafe.
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