While I can write a balanced article looking at the issue of drug profits home and abroad, and Derek Lowe can conduct a debate with his readers about it, we’d both probably admit that rather more people watch 60 Minutes than read our blogs. So today’s 60 Minutes on re-importation may have slightly more influence than Derek’s views or mine. I’m now pretty convinced that the Republicans are going to cave on the drug re-importation issue. With every senior in America watching, 60 Minutes showed an extremely pained Mark McClellan trying defend the indefensible–he was forced to say that the FDA is not allowed to check out if Canadian exporters are safe–"Under current law, we don’t have the authority to insure the safety of foreign produced, foreign distributed drugs." (I bet he’s damn happy he’s moving on to CMS and doesn’t have to sit through that interview again). They then showed that Lipitor is made in Ireland and that the same pill made there sells for twice as much here as it does in Canada. They showed that the taxpayers of Springfield, Mass will be $9 million better off because the city is buying its drugs in Canada, and that translates into more firefighters and cops on the beat. They even found a conservative Republican (Dan Burton) to attack both PDIMA and the pharma industry, and managed to say that no major drug company would come on the TV to defend their position. All in all, not the pharma industry’s finest 15 minutes ever of PR.
In a weird associated connection, there was also a commercial from AARP which seemed to first focus on the real "drug war" and then talked of AARP fighting the "other drug war, one we can win" demanding legalization not of marijuana but of Rx imports from Canada and for the ability of the government to negotiate drug prices. AARP’s blessing of course is what pushed PDIMA over the edge and won it through the house, so it looks like they’ve changed their PR position. Meanwhile, conservative Republican Dan Burton was featured prominently opposing PDIMA. He’s a long time drug-war warrior in that other drug war, but as he gets older he seems to be showing the odd bit of sense.