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Sanders offers bill to allow purchase of prescription drugs from Canada

Sanders offers bill to allow purchase of prescription drugs from Canada
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay MORE (I-Vt.) and other Democratic lawmakers are cranking up the heat on President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE to address high prescription drug costs. 

Sanders introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies, as long as they meet certain safety standards. 

Trump shouldn't hesitate to support it, lawmakers said, because he campaigned on the promise to bring down drug prices. 

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"We're attacking this problem by focusing on ideas that even President Trump says he supports," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the sponsor of the bill companion bill in the House. 

"The president's support for these ideas have been so clear that I'm tempted to introduce a bill in the House named 'The Donald Trump Drug Affordability Act.' I'm sure he would like that."

Sanders's bill would require foreign sellers to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Patients also must provide a valid prescription to the Canadian pharmacy they're buying from, and the bill also gives the FDA the authority to shut down "bad actors." 

The bill has 19 Senate co-sponsors, he said, but none are Republicans. 

Still, he said, he expects Republicans to sign on to it, as some have supported drug importation in the past. 

A Sanders amendment voted on last month that would allow people to buy prescription drugs from Canada received the support of 12 Republican senators, including Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West Five takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit MORE (Ariz.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Ted Cruz says critical race theory is as racist as 'Klansmen in white sheets' Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Rand Paul does not support a national minimum wage increase — and it's important to understand why Fauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' MORE (Ky.). 

Some Democrats voted against the amendment, including Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Mark Heinrich (N.M.), both of who are co-sponsoring Sanders's bill introduced Tuesday. 

They both said their safety concerns have been addressed in the new bill. 

But the bill will still be vehemently opposed by the drug lobby and other organizations. 

The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America say drugs from other countries do not necessarily meet the U.S. safety standards and could "taint our medical supply." 

Sanders said he expects the drug lobby to put up a big fight, but that he will win this time. 

"Do we expect the pharmaceutical industry will spend an enormous sum of money to oppose this? Of course we do," Sanders said. 

"This is the time. The American people are sick and tired of getting ripped off, and we're going to win this thing." 

Nearly 170 organizations also signed a letter to Congress Tuesday urging Congress to block the bill, citing the "hazards of drug importation." 

“Proposals allowing importation would undermine nearly two decades of drug safety policy," reads the letter, signed by the American Pharmacists Association and other groups. 

"Additionally, a large share of medicines that flow through Canada are counterfeit, and while it may seem safe to import medicines from developed countries like Canada and Western Europe, those medicines may have originated from countries all over the world."