The U.S. Senate's flirtation with re-importation is over, at least for now. And drugmakers can pat themselves on the back for that. Senators voted 51 to 48 for the measure, nine votes fewer than needed to prevent a filibuster, with some Democrats saying they needed to protect the $80 billion cost-cutting deal with pharma to keep the industry on the healthcare reform bandwagon.
The reimportation measure would have allowed pharmacies, wholesalers and even regular old consumers to buy meds from other countries where prices are lower. That could have cut deeply into drugmakers' ability to make up for discounts in countries such as Japan by selling the same meds at higher prices in the U.S. The reimportation proposal gained steam after an AARP report suggested that U.S. prices for common meds rose by 9 percent over the past year.
PhRMA contends that healthcare reform will make reimportation unnecessary, because more Americans will be insured and thus have access to affordable meds. Cost watchdogs, however--including the amendment's sponsor Sen. Byron Dorgan--bemoaned its failure. "We missed an opportunity to do something really important for the America people," Dorgan told Bloomberg. "This is one amendment that really does bend the cost curve."