By: Elias J. Atienza
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been one of the most ardent opponents fighting free trade. However, there is one product where he has become a proponent of trade; prescription drugs.
Sanders has brought this issue up many times, often comparing it to importing tomatoes and lettuce from Mexico. He introduced an amendment to the Senate Continuing Resolution (CR 3) which would allow for Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada.
It’s not a radical idea to import medication from Canada, where they pay a lot less for the exact same drugs. 72% of Americans support it. pic.twitter.com/m5kzJEI3iw
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 12, 2017
Sander’s amendment was rejected 46-52, with 2 Senators not voting. What is interesting however, is that unlike most Senate votes, which are drawn across partisan lines, there was no clear reason why people voted the way they did. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), both opponents of Sanders democratic socialist views, voted for the amendment. 10 other Republicans joined Paul and Cruz in voting for the amendment while 10 Democrats voted against Sanders amendment.
Paul has is generally considered a supporter of free trade, receiving a 75 percent score from USA Engage, which rates as supporting trade engagement.
Relevant to the discussion of drug prices, President-Elect Donald Trump has accused the pharmaceutical industry of getting away with “murder” and Sanders agreed with his remarks in an interview with The Huffington Post.
“You know what?” Sanders told The Huffington Post. “He’s right. And I’ve been saying that for years. Pharma does get away with murder. Literally murder. People die because they can’t get the prescription drugs they need.”
To Sander’s point, the Huffington Post helped to explain why drug prices are so high:
“Prescription drug price hikes are driven by monopolies the government grants to developers of new drugs in the form of patents and other intellectual property protections. Since nobody else is allowed to produce the drug, the firm is immunized from competition, which would lower prices. This is a particularly severe issue for life-saving drugs, since patients will literally die without access and will pay whatever they can to survive.”
Sanders hopes that by introducing Canadian drugs into the American market, it would help lower prescription drug prices. And with the support of Republicans like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, he could gain enough bipartisan votes the next time this issue is brought up to pass the amendment.