Kings have ruled their countries and kingdoms for centuries. We’ve forgotten most of their names. A generation ago Elvis Presley, the King of Rock, passed away. This year Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, died. But there is only one King of Kings, and we remember him on Friday. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Those of you who count yourselves as Christians; as you open presents and have Christmas dinner, don’t forget to spend a few minutes remembering Jesus Christ.
Santa Claus didn’t bring us any good news from Congress this week. The Grinches in the US Senate had a chance to save Americans a lot of money on prescription drugs, which would hve gone a long way to keep health care costs down. This week Senator Byron Dorgan, a democrat from North Dakota, proposed a plan to allow American pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import federally approved drugs from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Allowing competition would have substantially reduced the price of many drugs, and the price reductions would have occurred almost instantly. It is estimated that the passage of the Dorgan plan would have saved American consumers over $80 billion in the next ten years. The plan failed in the US Senate on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by a vote of 51-48. That’s right, 51 votes for and 48 votes against, but 60 votes were needed for passage under a “special rule”.
Even though Dorgan’s amendment had strong safeguards, allowing imports only of FDA-approved drugs from FDA-approved foreign plants, the US pharmaceutical industry argued that imported drugs are unsafe. This “consumer safety” argument is a complete sham. The Europeans know how to make safe drugs, as do the Canadians, the Australians, and the Indians, for that matter. As long as the patent and property rights of manufacturers are honored, patients should be able to purchase generic drugs from anywhere in the world.
Let me give you one personal example of a drug price disparity. A U.S. pharmacy once quoted me $136 for 8 quinine pills to prevent malaria prior to making a trip to India. Knowing how unreasonable that price was, I went to Bombay and picked up the same 8 pills (foil sealed, from a US manufacturer with a plant in India) for 86 cents! Not 86 cents per pill….86 cents for all 8 pills! Let’s see, that’s a savings of $135.14 on a drug priced at $136 in my local pharmacy! While the quinine example is extreme, there are tremendous cost savings for available to US consumers by allowing the import of drugs from abroad.
President Obama, who campaigned to support the import of less expensive drugs, has now backed off because he needs the support of the pharmaceutical industry to get his watered-down health care reform accomplished. If a health care “reform” bill does pass the house and senate, we can be sure it won’t contain any tort reform or gouge the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, or the Physicians Union (otherwise known as the American Medical Association). A brick layer knows that buying drugs more cheaply will reduce costs. Too bad they don’t teach common sense in the law schools that prepare most of our politicians.