Senate Nixes Imports of Drugs

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The Senate yesterday derailed a move to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from Canada and other countries by making them meet strict U.S. standards.

The bipartisan 49-40 vote for safety certification for imported drugs saved President Bush from having to veto the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization bill, which he promised to do if it opened the door to potentially dangerous drug imports.

"The safety of the American consumer must be our No. 1 priority," said Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, who sponsored the amendment requiring foreign-made drugs be certified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, called the vote a victory for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and a "poison pill" that killed consumer access to cheaper prescription medicine.

"It is unfair that the American public continues to pay the highest prices in the world," he said, adding that he hopes the House will allow access to foreign drugs when it takes up the bill.

The Senate adjourned last night without voting on the overall bill.

The larger bill, under which drug companies would have to pay the FDA about $400 million in fees next year, enjoys widespread support on both sides of the aisle and is expected to pass easily as soon as today.

The amendment to loosen drug-import restrictions was sponsored by Sen. …