Senate health debate hits snag over imported drugs

Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2009

Expanding access to low-cost prescription drugs from overseas might look like a sure winner in the effort to make healthcare more affordable. President Obama supports the idea, as do many Democrats and several Republicans. But the seemingly popular proposal brought the Senate healthcare debate to a standstill Thursday, as Democrats divided over whether they should bow to the drug industry's fierce opposition. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) temporarily halted consideration of the healthcare bill after three days of inconclusive debate on an amendment by Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and John McCain (R-AZ). The provision would allow pharmacies and wholesalers to import drugs from countries with safety standards comparable to America's. Despite Obama's support for importation, the White House fears that if the amendment is approved, the drug industry will oppose the bill. Industry support is considered a key to passage. That is why the White House negotiated a controversial deal to limit the financial effect of the overhaul on the industry in exchange for its support.




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