In what is a big win for the pharmaceutical industry, an effort led by Senate Republicans successfully neutralized a bill that would have allowed U.S. consumers to import prescription drugs from Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan and New Zealand. By a vote of 49-40 the Senate approved a bill that would have required the FDA to certify the safety and effectiveness of imported drugs before they could be brought into the country. The proposal might have had some merit if either non-FDA approved drugs were being imported, or the imported drugs were from nations with low safety and inspection standards, but the FDA had already let it be known that they did not have the capacity to carry out these inspections, so the passage of this measure effectively killed the whole idea.

According to a Center for Public Integrity study, the pharmaceutical industry spent $182 million lobbying Congress from January of 2005 through June of 2006. Most of this lobbying effort was aimed at protecting lucrative drug patents and keeping cheap drugs from Canada out of the United States. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America alone have spent $104 million on lobbying since 1998. After recent concerns about the FDA’s ability to evaluate the safety of drugs like Vioxx, FDA reform has become a big congressional issue. However, the Pharmaceutical companies oppose any legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration more oversight power, so you should be surprised if the reform never happens.

The drug issue provides a fine example of what is wrong with the American political system. A long time ago, the goal of our political system was to find solutions to society’s problems, but those days are long gone. In its place is a democracy for sale to the biggest contributor. Now special interests spend big bucks donating to campaigns and lobbying political candidates to make sure that bills that would be bad for their business get killed off. Both political parties are guilty of this activity, but in this case, how can any Republican tell me on one hand, that global competition that takes American jobs overseas is good, but that same market place competition is bad when it comes to prescription drugs?

In this instance, if the same drugs made by the same company are available for half the price, then why isn’t the American consumer allowed the benefits of a free market? What happened in the Senate today doesn’t seem very capitalistic to me, but then again, I am not being supported by the pharmaceutical industry to protect their interests. If we want the government to start acting in the best interests of the people, today’s vote is another example of why we need to get special interest money out of politics.

The Center for Public Integrity

AP story on the Senate vote

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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