Drug reimportation passes Senate, for now

Bad news first: A junior Republican senator won a late-night battle to get a drug-reimportation measure attached to the $43 billion Homeland Security funding bill. The measure would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada via the internet. It was hotly debated, but finally passed 55-36.

Good news (for pharma, at least): The amendment is likely to be stripped from the final funding bill. So some of those "yes" votes might have been from Senators who wanted voters to think they support reimportation, but knew the amendment wasn't likely to ever see the light of day. Take Sen. Harry Reid, who's no stranger to political posturing; his office told the Wall Street Journal that initially Sen. Reid worried that the bill would slow down Homeland Security funding. But "[b]ecause Sen. Reid does support lower drug prices, in the end he decided to vote yes."

"There was a lot of opposition and the drug industry has been doing everything it can to stop this," said the bill's sponsor Sen. David Vitter. "There was a concerted effort to kill this around the Democratic table." No kidding that pharma doesn't like the idea: It's been lobbying hard against reimportation ever since the idea popped up. And last week, industry leaders said they had some political assurances that reimportation would die on the vine, provided health reform passes. With the help of that $80 billion in cuts pharma promised Congress, of course.

- read the WSJ piece