On Prescription Drug Importation, Amendment #2793, To H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Making medicine affordable is part of what health reform should be.  Today we have the opportunity to include a measure long-championed by Senator Dorgan, which makes affordable prescription drugs more widely available to Americans.

Americans pay some of the highest prices for prescription drugs of any country in the world – despite the fact that many of these drugs are made right here, and they are often made with the benefit of taxpayer supported research.  Prescription drugs are a lifeline, not a luxury.  The issue boils down to access:  A prescription drug is neither safe nor effective if you cannot afford to buy it.

We have to recognize that this imposes real dangers on American consumers when they cannot follow their doctor’s treatment plan because they can’t afford their medicine.  While we must do more to bring affordable healthcare to the millions of Americans who are currently uninsured or who do not have good coverage, we cannot continue to deny them this immediate market-based solution.

I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Dorgan-Snowe amendment to allow pharmacies and drug wholesalers in the United States to import the very same medications that are FDA-approved in the United States from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan where prices are 35-55 percent lower than in the United States.  Consumers will be able to purchase the very same prescription medications from their local pharmacies at a third or half of the cost.  Additionally, the legislation would also allow individuals to purchase prescription drugs from FDA-inspected Canadian pharmacies—something Vermonters have crossed the border to do many times before.

For many Vermonters today, purchasing drugs from Canada literally means the difference between following their doctors’ orders and having to throw the dice with their health and sometimes even with their lives by doing without their prescription medicines.  It makes the difference for the woman who has maxed out her health plan’s annual prescription drug benefit only three months into the year and is then faced with purchasing the other nine months worth of medicine at U.S. prices on her own.  It makes the difference for the elderly man on a fixed income who is unable to afford both the heart medicine he needs to live, and the gas bill he needs to keep warm.  Are we prepared to tell those in dire need that they must go back to choosing between paying gas, food, and heating bills, or their medicine?

Of course not, Mr. President and I urge my fellow Senators to support the Dorgan-Snowe amendment.

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