Medical Devices and Prescription Drug Policy

Vitter: Dems who opposed drug import measure influenced by ‘Big Pharma’

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) accused Democrats of being in the drug industry’s pocket after his effort to allow drug imports from Canada went down in flames Thursday.

Shortly after his amendment to the Senate “minibus” appropriations bill was shot down 45-55, Vitter released a statement suggesting that 14 Democrats who voted for a similar measure two years ago may have changed their mind because of the pharmaceutical industry’s support for the healthcare reform law. The drug industry opposes the measure because it would allow low-priced drugs sold in Canada under that country’s price-control system to be reimported to the U.S., which has no such system in place.

{mosads}”In 2009 we passed essentially the exact same legislation with wide bipartisan support,” Vitter said in a statement. “What happened in the meantime? One thing is certain – Obamacare passed with heavy influence from Big Pharma since we last voted on reimportation. And Big Pharma was certainly lobbying senators all of this week to oppose my amendment that would provide much cheaper options for prescription drugs.”

The 2009 measure was attached to a Homeland Security funding bill after a 55-36 vote but was later stripped from the final bill. The 14 Democrats who switched their votes between then and now: Sens. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Max Baucus (Mont.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Harry Reid (Nev.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Jim Webb (Va.).

But Republicans who vote for drug reimportation open themselves up to similar charges of inconsistency. Vitter, for example, is against price controls in the U.S. — he has voted against drug price negotiations in Medicare — but allowing imports of Canadian drugs essentially adds up to importing that country’s price controls.


Vitter addressed that discrepancy a town-hall meeting in 2009.

Asked how he could be against the healthcare reform law while favoring imports from countries whose socialized medicine systems keep medical prices affordable for their citizens, Vitter said his “ultimate goal” was to use reimportation to cause Canada’s pricing system to “collapse.”

“I’m for reimportation not because I want to import price controls,” Vitter said at the time. “It’s because I believe reimportation will cause the pricing system worldwide that the big drug companies exploit to collapse. Right now, the big drug companies are able to charge very different prices in different countries, and of course we pay the highest price of all.”

Tags Charles Schumer David Vitter Harry Reid Kirsten Gillibrand Maria Cantwell Mark Warner Mary Landrieu Max Baucus Michael Bennet Richard Durbin Tom Harkin
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