An Idea Whose Time Has Never Come

October 21, 2011
1:53 pm

It used to be that congressional debates over prescription drug importation drew a great deal of national attention and featured very close outcomes. 

That’s no longer the case.  This week, a U.S. Senate vote on an amendment to allow prescription drug importation from Canada slipped by virtually unnoticed.  Only 45 Senators voted for the measured offered by Senator David Vitter (R-LA), falling far short of the 60 needed for passage.

Could it be that drug importation has become an idea as out of touch with the times as it is…well, simply bad?

At a time in which global concerns have grown over trafficking of dangerous, counterfeit drugs, it makes little sense to open our borders to medications coming from other countries’ warehouses and shipping points that U.S. authorities can’t adequately monitor.

Also, there is little need for imported drugs when the Medicare Part D program is making medicines extremely affordable for the nation’s seniors, and U.S. pharmaceutical companies have programs in place to provide low-cost pharmaceuticals to citizens with the greatest financial need.

Those arguments were made during the Senate debate, but there was another argument that I wish I had been made more frequently and powerfully.

The reason prescription drugs cost less in other countries is because those governments impose price controls instead of allowing the market to set prices.  If the United States were to import those drugs, we would also be importing those government price controls.  Every politician in America says they want more innovation, more development of disease cures and life-enhancing medicines, yet some also want to import other countries’ price controls that would drastically cut the resources necessary for research and development.  We can’t have it both ways.

2 Responses to “An Idea Whose Time Has Never Come”

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