After Big Pharma Donations, Casey and Toomey Vote Against Importing Cheaper Drugs from Canada

Had the amendment won full Democratic support, it would've passed.

Pat Toomey; Bob Casey

Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey voted against an amendment sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that would have allowed Americans to purchase cheaper pharmaceutical drugs from Canada.

The amendment, which was voted down Wednesday 52-46, was widely considered a straightforward measure that would allow citizens to access prescriptions at more affordable rates. The U.S. is the only high-income country that allows pharmaceutical companies to exploit patent monopolies on drugs — which are essential to people’s health — by charging customers as much as they want. In contrast, the Canadian government employs a review board in charge of negotiating drug prices to make prescriptions more affordable for citizens.

According to a 2015 Kaiser poll, roughly 72 percent of Americans support pharmaceutical importation from Canada. Even Donald Trump backs it. And yet, some Democrats have continually sided with Republicans who want to block importation. Why?

It could have something to do with the fact that the pharmaceutical industry, which gives both Democrat and Republican politicians massive amounts of money, is opposed to importation. 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.

But hey, who can be sure that has anything to do with it?

The amendment’s failure is just another reason why Democrats might be feeling disillusioned by their party — seeing as a minority of Republicans voted in favor of the measure, it would have passed had all Senate Democrats supported it.

As The Intercept pointed out, both Casey and Booker said they voted against the amendment for safety reasons, siding with claims of the pharmaceutical industry that “foreign governments will not ensure that prescription drugs entering the U.S. from abroad are safe and effective,” per the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. But, as former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty once so aptly mentioned, “Where are the dead Canadians?”

And while both Casey and Booker later voted in favor of a measure that would have allowed for pharmaceutical importation depending upon safety certification, safety certification is often considered “the poison pill” of such provisions because it’s highly unlikely to be implemented, and thus a windfall for the pharmaceutical industry, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

That didn’t stop Casey from claiming he supported both importation and Sanders on Twitter, though.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.