December 16th, 2009
07:15 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Drug Companies Cashing In?

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Is Pres. Obama flip-flopping on a promise to let Americans buy cheaper prescription drugs from other countries?

Here's what he said on the campaign trail last year:

"We'll tell the pharmaceutical companies, 'Thanks, but no thanks, for overpriced drugs'. Drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada and Mexico.... we'll allow the safe reimportation of low-cost drugs from countries like Canada."

Seems the President forgot about making that comment.

With backing from the White House, the Senate has voted down measures that would have allowed low-cost drugs from other nations.

Tonight, we're keeping them honest. Joe Johns is tracking the reversal, which has links to the health care reform fight.

Speaking of health care, the debate was halted on the Senate floor today when Republicans insisted a 767-page amendment be read out load – word, for word.

By some estimates, the read-a-thon could have gone on for 12 hours, but Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who sponsored the amendment, withdrew the measure to stop the tactic in the third hour.

Sanders, an Independent, then blasted the GOP for trying to halt the U.S. government.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who started the reading, defended the tactic in a statement posted on his web site.

"The American people deserve to understand the competing approaches to reform in the U.S. Senate. It's unfortunate that Senator Reid waited until the last minute to introduce his bill and now wants to rush it through the Senate. This reading will provide a dose of transparency that has been lacking in this debate," Coburn wrote.

Across the aisle, Democrats are firing back.

"It's not a stretch at this time of year to think of Ebenezer Scrooge, who when asked for a contribution for those in need replied, "What, are there no poorhouses?" My Republican colleagues are acting Scrooge-like during this holiday season. They are holding so tightly to their political tactics that they are forgetting the needs of others, forgetting the very democratic values they profess so fiercely to protect," Sen. Robert Menendez, (D) New Jersey, said.

What do you think of the GOP tactic? Sound off below.

We're also tracking a mysterious story out of Texas. A 10-year-old boy was taken from his school bus by uniformed officers and returned to his father.  It was all caught on tape. We'll show you the video.  At the time, court officials believed the father should have custody. But now a warrant has been issued for the father, who's accused of using incomplete Mexican court documents to get his son.

Ever since the tense moment on that school bus last month, the boy and his father haven't been seen. Tonight, you'll hear from the boy's mother who wants her son returned.

Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. on CNN. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    This is just a milder version of a filibuster which in my view the American people would not tolerate on this issue.
    My point after that is simple if they have a realistic 767 pages that gets 47m Americans covered without increasing the deficit why were they not, long before now, put before both the House and Senate committes where whether they admit it or not they have fair representation, and have been involved, much as they tell it was all behind closed doors, that's pure B.S.
    The Republicans have constantly, and its true, voted 100% NO on every bill.They have employed multiple delaying tactics on all appointments requiring approval = slow government down any way they can.
    What do I think of the tactic? A real load of B.S. sour grapes at the election loss and time they grew up!
    On the topic of the President saying yes/insisting in campaigns to import lower cost drugs, he's right and remains right and still believes, but the key is how many Dems and Repubs in House /Senate voted the idea out? My guess all republicans and quite a few Dem's with Big pharma in thier states.
    Do I smell Money being involved here, it cannot be getting re-elected, as I cannot imagine any "voter" of either party not being in favour of cheaper medications.
    You are right CNN in the sense the medication out vote was a bad vote but to put it at Obama's door is irresponsible and possibly untrue in 98% of circumstances.

    December 17, 2009 at 3:29 am |
  2. Rachael Chapman

    I was disapointed in the GOP yet again. They are growing increasingly desperate to halt the health care bill. I was happy to see Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont stop the madness. He couldn't even hide his outrage.

    December 17, 2009 at 3:28 am |
  3. Bob Reynolds

    President Obama is "two faced"

    December 17, 2009 at 2:15 am |
  4. jason

    I worked for an online drug company strictly selling to U.S. residents and on every aspect the Canadian generic was cheaper and still produced the same results. They are fabricated from the same companies situated in the U.S. but are controled under different regulatory rules in Canada. The U.S. needs to get a grip on their corrupt drug lobbying and start thinking about the people of the country and not the checks senators receive from drug lobbyists! You need a public healthcare system in your country...make the right decision.

    December 17, 2009 at 1:21 am |
  5. Joanne P.

    Standards are exactly the same, cost is 20 percent of U.S. prescription drug prices...and with the elimination of the competition and large group-Public Option, the American people cannot retire at age 55, the job market is showing double digit unemployment and everything will remain the same...the lobbyists for the insurance companies and pharmecutical big 5 win.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  6. Dave

    On the safety issue, the concern is the risk of getting counterfit drugs. It the boni fide drug is actually delivered by the internet seller, the drug is exactly the same. There is, however, real risk of getting fake or diluted drug when it is outside of the normal distribution system.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:31 pm |
  7. Prefer Anonymity

    I have worked for a majorly profitable pharmaceutical company for many years on the Sales and Marketing team and the sales reps were trained to "scare" physicians into not getting their oral cancer medications from any other country but the U.S. because it would mean the loss of a sale. When you're talking countries like those in Europe, and Canada, safety is absolutely not a concern–not that any person would admit to that, on the record. However, if you're talking getting your drugs from a third world country, well, then that's another story. There is a lot of training that sales representatives go through in order to handle "price objections." Particularly when it comes to oral cancer medications which can cost $8000 per month.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  8. ThomasBaird

    I hear this said and that how unfair it all is .Did you really expect the campaign promises to be kept? The question I have is what are we all going to do about it?Or what can we do about it?Perhaps the House of Representives will do whats right for the American people and keep the Public Option in the bill to give us a choiceand help to break up the healthcare insurance big pharma monopoly.But dont count on it.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  9. John Craig

    Why are the same drugs that are sold in Canada vs USA about 1/2 the cost. The drug companies get the same revenue for research in both countries. As I understand it there are three things that the drug companies cannot do in Canada. These represent about 1/2 the cost, so they do charge Canadian consumers to cover there promotion costs.
    1- They cannot run ads to tell consumers to ask their Doctors to prescribe a particular brand of drug. (This save billions)
    2- They cannot pay Doctors fees to prescribe their drug over a competitors. (This saves billions)
    3-The parlimentary system means they do not pay law maker the $millions to support a particular bill. Corporations are limited to very small donations to political parties.
    I think these are reasonable. They are 1/2 the price. We still pay our fair share for research...but not the for promotion. Check it out.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  10. Mary G

    Why can't the government do all the R & D for new drugs and sell them at cost to patients in the future? why do we need pharmaceutical companies anyway??

    December 16, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  11. Lester Edralin

    It's all about Profit... The pharm companies cannot allow profit to go down by giving the people what they deserve, Drug companies know very well that leveling the playing field for the people by allowing cheaper drugs to come to the states, will kill their profits. Safety is not the issue. like any other countries there will always be people trying to sell fake drugs that is why we have the FDA to this job.
    Give the power to the buyer not the drug companies.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  12. Kent Hughes

    Anderson, I liked your quote of $22 million spent on lobby by pharma. I found on maplight.org that Pharma has given more than $43 million since 2003 to federal candidates. Someone is being paid to keep things the way they are!

    December 16, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  13. Polly Wheaton

    We can thank the Senate for selling out the American people, yet again, in favor of the drug companies. What a surprise!!!!! We, the people, have NO representation in Washington. Only the special interests, big corporations, and the rich do. Why does Lieberman have such power over the Senate, especially the Democrats? After what he did during the campaign, he's NO Democrat, and they shouldn't give him the time of day.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  14. Lillian

    Of course Big Pharma has spent billions fighting the importation of drugs from Canada and Obama sold out Americans when he agreed to ban the practice. In fact, Americans will even be banned from buying the Generic form of many drugs right here in America. Talk about lining the pockets of Big Pharma. Give me a break. I'm SO disgusted.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  15. Steven Riddell

    It seems to me a crazy thing for Americans to be paying more for Pharma Drugs than ALL other countries, especially since it looks to be the largest consumer. It really is not that crazy when I recognized that America is the only country in the world that does not purchase Pharmas as a block. All other countries in the world take the approach that the market power is held by the buyer. America is the only country in the world to allow the Seller the power position. This is facilitated by the numerous different Medical Insurance Plans that are in business in America. Small buyers can not negotiate discounts! A good example of a power position in the American market is the GM Pension Fund which is the single largest purchaser of Viagra in the US. They get the cheapest price in America!!

    December 16, 2009 at 10:42 pm |
  16. Marlene

    Obama is not flip-flopping on the healthcare deal, he has no jurisdiction on the senate vote.

    December 16, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  17. Kevin Jones

    It saddens me that the president would allow such a disservice to occur to the American people. It is clear that he knew he was going to be allowing the sharks in the water with the kids, the moment the pharmaceutical companies would agree to everything EXCEPT for pricing regulations & importation of prescription drugs. I mean what else is ther besides surgery and ER visits? Its hearing news like this that make me so cynical towards polyticians, politics, & policy! They never work for me, somehow

    December 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  18. charlie

    Nice story about the US / Brazilian boy. Good to see that non US courts do take decisions that are not biased against the US.
    Quite contrary to the view often expressed in US media. Scotland, Italy ....
    Contrast that with the story in Texas under US inhumane justice system

    December 16, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  19. Will

    Why should this be any surprise. Remember the Prez said we would have transparency also?????? Oh and the stimulus which was supposed to produce jobs????? I hope Americans are waking up to where this country is going, which is down the toilet!!!!!!!! If your seeking CHANGE, then it time for heads to roll in congress in 2010 and then it's time to roll Obama out in 2012.....

    December 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  20. charlie

    Of course the safety issue is a scare tactic. Do Americans really think they have some wonderful safety standards that are better than many dozen first world democracies. Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Holland ...........

    December 16, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  21. Gilbert Garcia

    It is what it is....people are never going to be happy....look at the bright side, it can't be worse than the bush administration!

    December 16, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  22. Cindy

    Is anyone really surprised on Obama or the dems flipping on allowing drugs to be bought from other countries? This isn't the first time he's flipped on something and won't be the last.

    It's really a shame that they throw in bills at the last moment to pass and no one even reads the dang things. I just want to know what are we paying these people for? They just half a.. do their work. If we did our jobs the way they do we'd be fired. So why aren't they?


    December 16, 2009 at 9:25 pm |
  23. Annie Kate

    I don't see why Presidential candidates make all the promises they do – they can't deliver on them unless Congress agrees to create the legislation and pass it and we have seen that this Congress is no different from all the other do-nothing Congresses of the last decade. Perhaps if Obama had more experience for the job from the beginning he wouldn't be so long on promises and so short on delivery.

    If the Congress is going to read the amendments aloud they ought to read the whole bill aloud – what's in it could use some light shone on it.

    December 16, 2009 at 9:24 pm |