BERNIE SANDERS INTRODUCED a very simple symbolic amendment Wednesday night, urging the federal government to allow Americans to purchase pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they areconsiderably cheaper. Such unrestricted drug importation is currently prohibited by law.
The policy has widespread support among Americans: one Kaiser poll taken in 2015 found that 72 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing for importation. President-elect Donald Trump also campaigned on a promise to allow for importation.
The Senate voted down the amendment 52-46, with two senators not voting. Unusually, the vote was not purely along party lines: 13 Republicans joined Sanders and a majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, while 13 Democrats and a majority of Republicans opposed it.
One of those Democrats was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who is considered a rising star in the party and a possible 2020 presidential contender.
In a statement to the media after the vote, Booker’s office said he supports the importation of prescription drugs but that “any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”
This argument is the same one offered by the pharmaceutical industry. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which lobbies against importation, maintains that it opposes importation because “foreign governments will not ensure that prescription drugs entering the U.S. from abroad are safe and effective.”