UPDATE: See my update to this post here.
Barack Obama campaigned on an explicit promise to support legislation allowing Americans to purchase lower-priced, FDA-approved prescription drugs from other countries. On the campaign, he rightly rejected the drug industry's red herring argument that prescription drugs in places like Canada and Europe are unsafe - a red-herring argument that has been repeatedly undermined by empirical evidence, not the least of which is the simple fact that almost every other industrialized nation on Earth today has safe and secure drug importation systems in place. And Obama's promise to back importation was not some ultraliberal promise - it was one that polls have consistently showed the vast majority of Americans support.
In the first month in office, Obama seemed ready to fulfill that basic promise. But now, as a bipartisan group of senators move forward with a bill to cement importation into law, we get this:
A proposal to enable the importation of cheaper prescription drugs could endanger the U.S. medicine supply and would be difficult to implement, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday...
The Obama administration's declaration on the eve of the vote could derail the amendment despite the fact that Obama co-sponsored Dorgan's drug imports bill while a member of the Senate and that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was a vocal proponent of the House version of the bill when he served as a member of the lower chamber.
This is straight-up disgusting - and please, spare us the claim that its the FDA and not Obama doing this because it's his FDA appointee on an issue he explicitly campaigned on. That's why it is a such a gross betrayal - a betrayal on behalf of one of the wealthiest and most profitable industries in the world: the pharmaceutical industry.
As Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) says, the safety canard now being thrown out by the Obama adminstration is "completely bogus" and he further notes that both the Clinton and Bush administrations have used that completely bogus argument to prevent importation in the past. As a result, "U.S. consumers are charged the highest prices in the world for FDA-approved prescription drugs."
This is not some small issue - there's literally billions of dollars at stake in this, and it's a fight that progressives have been waging for a decade now (I know, because when I worked on the Hill, I spent countless hours on it). As I said, the fact that an administration headed by President Obama - a guy who promised to support importation - is now helping the drug industry crush importation is disgusting, especially when you consider that this same administration that cites its cost concerns is trying to stop a measure that would bring down inflated drug costs.
We've been betrayed.