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The Hypocrisy of the Dems’ Opposition to Drug Reimportation

As we noted, the White House and Senate Democratic leaders yesterday killed legislation that would have significantly lowered prescription drug prices for consumers and the government alike — a proposal that President Obama had endorsed on the campaign trail and many of yesterday’s opposing Democrats had also supported in the not-too-distant past.

The Democratic opponents argued that the drug re-importation amendment — sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — would threaten the safety of Americans. Yet, as The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank points out today, it’s difficult to argue that position with a straight face considering that a large bulk of the ingredients for the drugs manufactured domestically originate from the same countries thought to be the most unsafe.

These [safety] arguments don’t hold up well, considering that 40 percent of the active ingredients in American prescription drugs come from India and China, and that the latter slipped tainted heparin past the FDA. But fright was about the best argument opponents could use to defeat a popular proposal that would save the federal government $19 billion over 10 years.

The hypocrisy wasn’t lost on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who said so on the chamber floor just before yesterday’s vote.

This is not about importing drugs from China or India or Mexico, where drug safety standards are not up to par, although American drug companies have outsourced a lot of their manufacturing to those countries and [we've] found all kinds of problems with the ingredients that they import into American drugs.

But that’s not the issue here. That only underscores the hypocrisy of U.S. drug companies in opposing the Dorgan amendment.

No matter. Pressured by the drug lobby, Senate lawmakers shot down the provision 51 to 48 — well shy of the 60 needed to pass the measure.

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