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McCain Blames Big Pharma For Drug Reimportation Failure

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He was referring to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the behemoth drug lobby that neither party likes to cross, and which has successfully quashed similar legislation on many occasions.

The measure by McCain and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would have allowed the importation of cheaper medicines from Canada, likely saving the U.S. billions of dollars on health care spending. It failed 43-54, with bipartisan support and opposition, as an amendment to a sweeping FDA drug review bill that's viewed as must-pass.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who opposed the bill, contested McCain's premise.

"It is not the special interests that has caused the Senate countless times to reject this policy," Menendez said on the floor. He argued that the amendment "puts Americans at risk, undermines the FDA's authority, has a devastating ripple effect throughout the country's drug supply by allowing foreign pharmaceuticals into the country."

"This is about the health and security of the American people," he said.

Health care experts contend that the policy can save money while minimizing risks. In the summer of 2009, PhRMA successfully persuaded the White House to exclude drug reimportation from the Affordable Care Act as part of a deal in exchange for its support.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.