Last week, 13 Senate Democrats, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, voted against an amendment that would have paved the way for Americans to purchase less expensive prescription drugs from Canada. After the vote came to light, social media users and progressive pundits railed against Booker for his role in blocking the amendment, citing undue influence by “Big Pharma” on the Democratic Party.
On January 13th, Booker issued the following statement on Facebook defending the vote. Click the yellow highlighted portions to read our notes about his statement.
To those of you who have reached out to me by phone, email, social media, or otherwise about a vote I took this week related to the importation of prescription drugs: I greatly appreciate your feedback and I’m grateful for your passion.
I support the importation of prescription drugs. It should be part of a strategy to control the skyrocketing cost of medications. Further, we should be willing to try a lot of ways to control drug prices, because we’re going to need a comprehensive approach to truly solve this problem. Many of them will be counter to the desires of the pharmaceutical industry, but just as insurance companies shouldn’t drive health policies, drug companies shouldn’t dictate them either.
Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure that the drugs coming into this country are safe. The amendment I voted against last week didn’t meet this test.
Public health leaders have long-stressed the need for strong safety standards coupled with any drug importation plan – everyone from commissioners, top officials, and researchers at the FDA to HHS secretaries under Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton.
Please know how committed I am to finding solutions to the problem of skyrocketing drug prices – it’s a problem I’ve been working to alleviate for years. This is a life-or-death issue for millions of families, particularly seniors and those struggling with chronic health conditions like diabetes or asthma. This is a crisis for countless American families, and it is stretching them to the breaking point.
That’s why as mayor of Newark, I brought clinics, nonprofits, and drug companies to the table and developed a free drug discount card program that aimed to cut drug costs for under- and un-insured residents of our city.
It’s why I voted this week for measures that bring drug prices down and protect Medicare’s prescription drug benefit.
And it’s why I support and am exploring ways to find more comprehensive solutions to this growing problem, including finally allowing the government, through Medicare, to use their purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices and, of course, allowing for the importation of prescription drugs with adequate safety standards.
To those who think pharmaceutical industry pressure matters to me — it doesn’t. I work for the people of New Jersey, and have never and will never let any industry influence a vote I make on behalf of the American people.
Thank you again to all who reached out on this issue. Your passion makes a difference.