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Two Drug Import Amendments Fail To Pass In Senate

By Minara El-Rahman on December 17, 2009 9:02 AM

Two attempts to introduce cheaper prescription drugs into the United States failed this week. Two amendments that called for drug import from other countries failed to pass in the Senate.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the proposed amendments to Senate healthcare legislation needed 60 votes in order to be adopted. The amendment introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) failed to pass with 51-48 in favor of the amendment.

The second amendment which was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was basically the same as Sen. Dorgan's but it allowed for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that the drug import would be safe and lower costs in order to take effect. This amendment failed to pass with 56-43 in favor of the amendment.

What was the first drug import amendment about?

The drug import amendment introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) would have allowed individuals, pharmacies and drug wholesalers the ability to import cheaper prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

Critics of the amendment include Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg who claims that this amendment would enable counterfeit drugs to easily infiltrate the United States.

Sen. Dorgan (D-ND) has been pushing for this amendment for ten years. He argued that this concern over counterfeit drugs was a bogus concern. He was quoted by NPR as saying, "It is an insult, in my judgment, to the American people to say, 'Oh, you can make this work in Europe for the benefit of the consumer to get lower prices, but the Americans don't have the capability to make this happen, don't have the capability to manage it.' That is absurd, and I think the safety issue is unbelievably bogus."

What was the second drug import amendment about?

The second amendment, introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), was nearly identical to the first, but it allowed for the safety of the amendment to be assessed by the Food and Drug Administration.

What Does This Mean For You?

This means that you can kiss eased access to cheaper prescription drugs goodbye, at least for now. However, the drug industry did agree to spend $80 billion dollars over the span of ten years in order to help with reforming the healthcare industry. This would include helping senior citizens pay for their Medicare drug prescriptions. Stay tuned for more healthcare reform updates.

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