What a difference a year makes! On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to take on the U.S. pharmaceutical industry by allowing Americans to import cheaper prescription drugs. As a U.S. senator, he even co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed importation of prescription drugs. But less than a year into his presidency, Obama has had a change of heart.
Apparently under pressure from the White House, dozens of Democratic senators voted on Tuesday to block an amendment to the health care reform bill that would have allowed importation of prescription medicines.
Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota (photo at right) introduced the amendment. He said it would save the federal government $19 billion over 10 years and save the American people about four times that much. Brand name drugs are far cheaper in Canada than in the U.S., for example.
But Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg warned that the importation of FDA-approved drugs from countries like Canada could endanger the U.S. medicine supply.
And an administration spokesman said the president is concerned about the safety of imported medicines.
This is such egregious nonsense that there had to be a more plausible explanation, and there was. You may recall that the White House negotiated a deal with the U.S. drug industry earlier this year calling for an $80 billion cut in prescription drug prices as part of Obama’s health care reform initiative. The president obviously did not want to risk blowing that deal by undermining the pharmaceutical industry’s profits.
Also, Democratic senators from states with major drug companies were fiercely opposed to the amendment. They have their constituents’ jobs to consider – not to mention those generous campaign contributions from the drug manufacturers.
The health care reform bill that is on the verge of being enacted is a disappointment of awesome magnitude. I have blogged about it off and on for months. But it may be doing voters a favor: It has revealed the putrid underbelly of Washington politics and unmasked some villainous characters who were once held in high esteem. Voters should now be better able to separate the good guys from the bad and use that knowledge in future elections.
ON A HAPPIER NOTE:
Congratulations to Usain Bolt for making the short list not only for AP’s “athlete of the decade” but also for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
Here’s how AP national writer Eddie Pells describes Usain’s achievements:
In the short span of two years, Bolt has done a decade’s worth of restructuring to track and field’s record book. He has made himself a candidate for The Associated Press’ Athlete of the Decade by making people rethink what’s possible in one of the most basic measures of athleticism: how fast a human can get from Point A to Point B.
In the 100-meter dash at the Beijing Olympics, Bolt broke the record despite hot-dogging it across the line for the final 30 meters. A year later, as if to prove he could play the leading role with a greater sense of gravitas, he broke it again at world championships with a full-on effort – and by .11 seconds, the biggest margin since electronic timing was introduced in the 1970s.
In the Olympic 200-meter dash, he broke a record most people thought was unbreakable – a mark that had not even been threatened in 12 years. A year later, Bolt broke that record again, also by .11.
As Michael Johnson, the four-time Olympic gold-medal winner whose 200-m record Bolt has shattered, puts it, “He has made people stop and rethink what humans are capable of doing.”
Ah so we Jamaicans bad, you know!