Diana Zuckerman on CNN Tonight

Diana Zuckerman, President of the National Research Center for Women and Families, appeared on CNN Tonight on December 18, 2009.  The following is the transcript from the segment.

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A bipartisan effort in the Senate this week to open the nation’s doors to pharmaceutical imports seem to be on track with this campaign trail rallying cry from then candidate Barack Obama.

OBAMA: Then we’ll tell the pharmaceutical companies thanks, but no thanks for overpriced drugs.


OBAMA: Drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada and Mexico. We’ll let Medicare negotiate for lower prices. We’ll allow the safe re-importation of low cost drugs from countries like Canada.

SCHIAVONE: A little more than a year after that campaign stop in Newport News, Virginia, the head of President Obama’s Food and Drug Administration urged a no vote on a drug imports bill proposed by North Dakota Senate Democrat Byron Dorgan. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg raising “significant safety concerns” and calling the measure “logistically challenging to implement and resource intensive.” Former Democratic congressional staffer David Sirota, now a left of center political analyst, says the Dorgan amendment would’ve achieved the goals of candidate Obama.

DAVID SIROTA, AUTHOR: Many of the drugs that people consume at their pharmacy right now are made not in this country. What this bill merely would have done would allow wholesalers and pharmacists to buy those drugs at the international world market price, a lower price than they’re being sold here. SCHIAVONE: The Dorgan proposal, with some Republican backing would’ve permitted licensed U.S. pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import FDA approved drugs from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Japan, passing along the savings to consumers, savings which Dorgan says could have been in the tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. Those savings are no small matter to the National Research Center for Women and Families.

DIANA ZUCKERMAN, NATL. RESEARCH CENTER FOR WOMEN AND FAMILIES: We were hoping that the time had come when the American public and our public health would be the first priority, not the interests of drug companies. And that’s the biggest disappointment –that the drug companies — their lobbyists — as usual have had their say much more so than they deserve.

SCHIAVONE: The Center for Responsive Politics finds that from 1998 to the present, the pharmaceuticals and health products business was the top spending lobby, investing more than $1.7 billion. The industry leads the pack this year with expenditures so far listed at nearly $200 million. Pharma, the pharmaceutical lobby’s main voice offered no apologies telling CNN “the Dorgan amendment was defeated because common sense people recognize there is no way to guarantee the safety and efficacy of medicines brought into the United States outside of the FDA’s control.”