KEY TAKEAWAY: On the surface, the drug companies won a battle against Senator Bernie Sanders as his bill to allow pharmaceutical distributors and pharmacists to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, but what is most alarming is that some Republicans sided with Democrats in voting against the measure.
According to CNBC ” 12 Republicans joined the Sanders forces and voted in favor of his bill. Suddenly, the battle lines in the pharma wars are shifting. They didn’t shift in time to get this cheaper drug importation bill passed, but that measure was small potatoes anyway. The stakes will be much higher in the coming months, and the anti-pharma armies are getting stronger.”
Look at some of the names of the key GOP Senators with seniority or national renown as conservatives who voted in favor: Ted Cruz, Charles Grassley, John Thune, John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Mike Lee. And note well that the newest Republican Senator, John Kennedy from Louisiana, also joined in favor of allowing the importation of cheaper drugs. Ouch.
PhRMA’s response has been to throw money into more ads for the drug industry, but that is trying to put out a huge fire with a garden hose. This is very much the result of more and more bi-partisan opposition to exploding prescription drug prices in individual cases like Mylan’s EpiPen and Biogen’s huge price tag for their newly approved drug.
What about the Democrats who voted against Sanders bill? Democrats like Corey Booker and Bob Menendez, both from Big Pharma’s major U.S. headquarters state of New Jersey, voted “nay.” The drug industry’s major presence in states like Delaware and Pennsylvania also seems to have played a roll in getting the two Democratic Senators from Delaware and the one Democrat from Pennsylvania to vote no as well.
According to nonpartisan research organization MapLight, both Casey and Toomey (and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who also voted against the amendment) are among the top 10 senators who receive campaign money from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Between July 1st, 2010 and June 30th, 2016, Democrat Casey and Republican Toomey received more than $250,000 — each — from companies in the pharmaceutical industry.
Anyone that thinks business can go as usual is living in fantasyland. Pharma brought this on itself and is going to pay a huge price for putting Wall Street ahead of patients, but then why should pharma CEO’s care when they can leave with tens of millions of dollars in severance.