The Senate on Tuesday voted 51-48 on amendment sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to promote the importation of prescription drugs, falling far short of the 60 votes needed to pass.
News coverage focused on the amendment’s implications for passage of the Senate health care bill and the lobbying prowess of the pharmaceutical industry, but the amendment deserved to fail on its merits. As the NAM’s “Key Vote” letter to the Senate argued:
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 10 percent of medicines available globally are counterfeit. A November 2009 INTERPOL/WHO operation involving 24 countries found that 751 web sites were engaged in illegal activity, including offering controlled or prescription only drugs. We fear that drug importation would expose consumers to dangerous counterfeit or adulterated medications, undermining the quality and safety of prescription drugs.
We are also concerned with provisions in the amendment that would impose “forced sale” mandates on contracts between private companies and their customers/suppliers. In effect, it would bar pharmaceutical companies from deciding who they can sell their products to in specific countries, the quantity of the product that they will sell to a given buyer, the price terms of the sale, and the terms regarding export of the product, thereby abrogating their contract and patent rights.
- Kaiser Health News, “Amendment To Allow Drug Importation Fails In Senate”
- Wall Street Journal (blog), “Importing Drugs Is Out; Mining Docs’ Prescriptions Is (Still) In”
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