Bernie Sanders takes another swing at big pharma with bill to allow drug imports

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during J Streets 2017 National Conference at the Washington Convention Center. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Opening a new front in the war against big pharma, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a slew of Democratic colleagues introduced a bill Tuesday to allow commercial importation of drugs from Canada.

The appeal is obvious; through cheap imported drugs, the U.S. would be able to take advantage of the government levers and regulation that other countries have used to bring down pharmaceutical prices. It’s a far more politically palatable way to attack the problem of soaring drug prices than opening up an even more contentious fight over whether the U.S. government should meddle directly in pricing — and it has had wide popular and bipartisan support, including from Hillary Clinton and President Trump during the presidential campaign.

A drug importation amendment was previously advanced during the budget resolution vote in the Senate in January. It was rejected, with 13 Democrats voting against the measure. Four of those who voted against the amendment signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

In an afternoon press conference unveiling the bill, Democratic and independent lawmakers threw down the gauntlet, calling on President Trump — who has repeatedly said that he will do something to reign in rising drug prices — to support their effort.

“I want to finally say about our President, who has said a lot of talk about health care, and has recently confessed how ‘complicated’ he thinks it is. He has made promises to the American people about prescription drug prices; he has made promises to the American people, and now it’s time for him to put up or shut up,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who joined as a co-sponsor after earlier voting against drug importation …read more

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