Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 22, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

CANADIAN DRUGS....Apparently bipartisan support is growing for allowing Americans to import cheap drugs from Canada and beyond:

"We're now well beyond the question of the necessity to allow for safe, regulated drug importation," said Sen Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a sponsor of the new bill. "A drug can be safe and effective, but what good is it if you can't afford to take it? It is simply unconscionable that American consumers are subjected to price discrimination."

....Senate sponsors and staffers predicted that the bill introduced Wednesday or some variation of it had broad enough support that it probably would come up for a vote this year, despite opposition by the Bush administration and Senate GOP leaders.

....The bipartisan legislation would immediately permit individuals to import up to a 90-day supply of a prescription drug from Canada for personal use. It also would allow Americans traveling to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland or any current member of the European Union to bring back a 90-day supply of medicine.

There's something surreal about this whole debate. Foreign methods for lowering drug prices are apparently too Stalinistic for Republicans to consider, but it's OK to let other countries use these methods and then import the drugs from them. That's nuts.

Other countries use both legal measures and massive buying power to negotiate lower drug prices. Pharmaceutical companies go along with it because presumably the business is still profitable for them even at these lower prices. So take your pick: (a) these methods are efficient and toughminded, in which case the United States government ought to follow suit, or (b) these methods are unfair and oppressive, in which case the United States government should neither tolerate them nor tacitly approve of them.

But Republicans can't have it both ways. It's like sermonizing endlessly about family values but then glorifying divorcees and philanderers as party icons.

Oh, wait a second....

TROLL NOTE: This bill has bipartisan support, so why am I only picking on Republicans? Because Democrats are already in favor of having the government negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare patients. It's only Republicans who oppose this (on principle, of course!) but then turn around and pander to their constituents by suggesting that it's OK to buy drugs from other people who have negotiated lower prices.

Kevin Drum 12:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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