December 16, 2009 - Yesterday, the Senate voted against the importation of prescription drugs, 51-48. Offered by Sen Byron Dorgan (D-ND) as an amendment to the health care reform bill, the provision would pave the way for market access to cheaper prescription drugs, by relaxing restrictions on imports from Canada and other highly-developed countries. In a bipartisan effort rarely seen in recent votes on health care reform, 30 Democrats sided with 17 Republicans and one Independent to kill the bill.
MAPLight.org found that Senate Democrats who voted to block imports, siding with drug companies, received an average of $73,678 each from drug companies over the past six years—76% more than Democrats who voted in favor of imports.
Among all Senators, those voting to block imports received an average of $85,779 each from drug companies, 69% more than those who voted in favor of imports.
All Democrats (and Independents)
Average to Yes votes (allow imports): $41,894
Average to No votes (block imports): $73,678
Average to Yes votes (allow imports): $50,767
Average to No votes (block imports): $85,779
The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is opposed to drug importation, claiming the risks of counterfeit medicines and sub-standard regulations could cause undue harm to consumers. Senator Dorgan and 12 co-sponsors argue in the text of this bill that "a prescription drug is neither safe nor effective to an individual who cannot afford it." Dorgan estimates that the bill would save American consumers $100 billion over ten years.
Previous MAPLight.org research has also shown alignment of pharma campaign money and votes in Congress. On a Medicare-related vote in September, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee who voted in favor of pharma interests received 4.2 times more campaign money from pharma interests than Dems who voted against pharma interests. And in May 2007, the Senate voted to kill a similar effort to allow prescription drug imports. Senators who voted in favor of pharma interests received three times more campaign money from pharma interests—$100,000 each over six years—than Senators who voted against them.
Note: Averages for yesterday's vote exclude Senator Byrd, who did not vote, and recently elected or appointed Senators Roland Burris, Paul Kirk, and George LeMieux
Correction: Earlier post excluded Herbert Kohl from averages.
Campaign Contributions to Senators from Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Interests, January 1, 2003 - August 12, 2009
|Senator||Party||State||Amount from pharma interests||Vote on allowing imports|
|Byrd, Robert||D||WV||$32,100||Not voting|
|Stabenow, Debbie Ann||D||MI||$39,134||Yes|
Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets Open Data, and includes PAC and individual contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturing interests. Date range of contributions: January 1, 2003 - August 12, 2009. Contributions to the presidential campaigns of Senators are not included.