Senator Leahy Supports Bringing Drugs In From Canada... And Also Banning Such Sites From The Internet

from the confused-isn't-he? dept

In the latest bit of evidence that Senator Patrick Leahy, who is the official sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act, doesn't even understand what it is he's proposing, the folks over at DemandProgress are pointing out a massive contradiction in two separate bills that Leahy has introduced. First, of course, we have the PROTECT IP Act, which pharmacies like Eli Lilly are cheering on because they know that it can be used to block access to foreign online pharmacies (mainly in Canada) that Americans frequently use for parallel import or re-importation of drugs at more reasonable prices. Of course, Eli Lilly won't come out and say that directly, but the fact that they hype up the key point that this bill will encourage search engines and others to take "voluntary action" makes it pretty clear that this is what they likely mean.

No one denies that actual fake drugs are a real danger. But too many in both the pharma industry and among our politicians never separate out fake (and often dangerous) drugs from either generics or parallel import drugs that are just as effective, but often much, much cheaper. While government officials will insist up and down that their only concern is with the actual fake drugs, what's noticeably missing from this bit of legislation is anything that makes that point clear -- meaning that search engines and others who don't necessarily understand the difference may feel pressured to block those legit online pharmacies. Which, of course, would make the big pharma firms like Eli Lilly quite happy.

So what's the contradiction? Well, at the same time that Leahy is sponsoring the PROTECT IP Act, he's also a co-sponsor of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act which is designed to expand the ability of Americans to import cheaper drugs from elsewhere. Yup, so just as he's sponsoring a bill to allow more people to get cheaper drugs from Canada, he's also sponsoring a bill that will make that much, much harder.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2011 @ 4:46pm

    "voluntary action"

    It's not voluntary if it wouldn't have happened if it weren't for a law. It's government induced action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Beta (profile), 24 May 2011 @ 4:47pm


    This does not mean that the Senator does not understand the legislation he supports. It is quite possible that he understands the contradiction but simply doesn't care, either because there's more in those bills than just that, or because he's supporting one or both bills in exchange for, I don't know, favors. Political favors. Of some kind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Zach Mollett (profile), 24 May 2011 @ 4:54pm


    Maybe he's like the majority of average people that had the legalese in the act read to him and he didn't manage to connect the nearly invisible dots connecting these contradictions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Jay (profile), 24 May 2011 @ 4:56pm

    Re: realpolitik

    Most of his money comes from Lobbyists and Lawyers

    Safe to say that they write the law, he endorses it at this stage.

    Leahy is one of the main reasons I truly believe in term limits for Senators and Congress.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Zach Mollett (profile), 24 May 2011 @ 5:09pm

    Re: Possibility

    Or maybe he understands that the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act will fix the issue wherein it will be wholly illegal to import drugs unless it is done by a registered company. Which would then mean that their website, since they are a registered company, would be legal to run and not subject to being shutdown.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    robin, 24 May 2011 @ 5:51pm

    Re: realpolitik

    as a resident of the great state of vermont, i can assure you that pat is clueless. saw him in burlington recently, kinda felt sorry for him, until i remembered his authority w/in the judiciary committee puts my constitutional rights at risk.

    at this stage of his career, he's cashing out from any lobbyist who comes through the door.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2011 @ 6:03pm

    It's not that confusing once you realize that members of congress aren't the people coming up with the laws they're proposing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Thomas (profile), 24 May 2011 @ 7:03pm


    is totally in pay of big business. Allowing people access to drugs at more reasonable prices is against the goals of the rich American drug companies, thus they slip lots of money to Congress to block it.

    It's the same problem with Health Care; the Health Insurers have a vested interest in keeping health care costs high and rising, so they "persuade" Congress to help them. They even blocked legislation that would require health insurers to use 80% of the premiums to actually pay for health care, a motion that would endanger the multi-million dollar bonuses paid to their executives. Health Insurers are a business, and making enormous amounts of money is the goal, NOT taking care of sick people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2011 @ 8:34pm

    These are fundamentally two separate and distinct issues, so I am having some difficulty seeing a contradiction.

    Frankly, re the imported drug legislation, it is nice to see that it reinforces the LG v. Quanta decision regarding the "first sale" doctrine (See: Page 93 of the draft bill).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2011 @ 10:18pm

    Name list anyone?

    Perheps it'll be more efficient for them to maintain a namelist regarding which manufacturer is recognized to make valid generic drugs? Perheps they can also maintain a list of website of these vendors?

    Oh wait, there's no incentive for them to do that...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Jeni (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 4:43am

    World Wide Web

    Part of the wonder of the web is that it's world wide ... where the U.S. gets off acting as if it owns a vast portion of the Internet is beyond me, much less now trying to tell us where we can or cannot purchase something from.

    Feeling more and more like I'm in China these days.

    Cripes. D.C. needs one hell of a house cleaning. When is Leahy up for re-election? robin, maybe you could consider getting involved and working to oust him from office if you aren't already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    pjhenry1216 (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 5:11am

    the way I figure, he may understand fully that they are contradictory. he gets the best of both worlds. he helps pharma while at the same time being able to tell people that he's trying to help them out, even though in reality, it'll probably be pointless, but the people don't know that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: realpolitik

    One term as a limit ... that would be perfect

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re: realpolitik

    What ever happened to the people of vermont electing the stupidest person running so they can do the least damage?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Christopher (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re: realpolitik

    Term limits don't work. It has us getting our best and brightest out of the legislature too soon, while getting the most egregious idiots out soon enough.

    Best thing: Recall votes. Amend ALL state Constitutions and the federal constitution to make it so that Congressmen/Senators/Reps can be recalled at any time, at the local/state/federal level.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Christopher (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re: Congress..

    I would say pass a law saying that 95% of premiums have to be used for health care, or whatever percentage is differing from that 95% has to be returned to the people who are buying health insurance.

    5% profit is MORE THAN ENOUGH profit for a company to be making in the real world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Jay (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: realpolitik

    How about both ideas?

    Recall votes, 2 term limit (similar to President) and an amended pay of $50,000 from the $176,000 salary of most Congressmen.

    This would:

    A) stop the incentive to make bad laws based on lobbyist ideals
    B) prevent groupthink by making Senators more resistant to lobbyist ideas (they have more time to speak to their constituents and will be less likely to waste it on lobbyists)
    C) slow down the revolving door (too many people can't gain power and influence in one industry)
    D) A Con - growth of more family politics (it's almost inevitable but look at the Kennedies and Bush families for examples)
    E) Prevent the government healthcare that most Senators (Leahy) enjoy through the government system.
    F) Force more Congressmen to get jobs in the private sector and see what it's like to be a person in the system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2011 @ 10:48am

    Anyone that thinks reimportation of drugs from Canada will help Americans is just kidding themselves or don't understand the industry.

    Eli Lilly knows exactly how much drugs are available in Canada, they know about how much drugs will be needed by the local population and all they have to do is restrict supplies to say 10% over what Canada needs. At that point, then there won't be the supplies in Canada to ship to the US.

    Why are people here and politicians banking on strategies to lower costs on something that can be defeated by a business decision?

    Oh, and by the way, Pfizer and Eli Lilly already restrict the Canadian supplies. You are arguing over a dead issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: realpolitik

    "Recall votes, 2 term limit (similar to President) and an amended pay of $50,000 from the $176,000 salary of most Congressmen."

    Thats actually pretty good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Jordan (profile), 25 May 2011 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: realpolitik

    I would prefer a longer 1 term rather than 2 terms. As it is now they spend their entire first term trying to get a second term rather than actually doing anything.

    I agree with the salary thing. They shouldn't get a pension either. It was designed as a part time job. Let's get back to that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Tim, 25 May 2011 @ 9:17pm

    Safe Imported Drugs are a Reality

    Interesting discussion. I hope everyone keeps talking about the reality of safe drugs from outside the U.S. We know they exist, at huge savings for American citizens - and if people know what to look for, they can be assured of safety. Only deal with a website that dispenses through a pharmacy, requires a prescription, fully displays address and contact information, and keep personal and financial information confidential. The debate about drug importation will continue to rage but Americans can feel safe by following these measures. Learn more at

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    rxrightsadvocate, 26 May 2011 @ 6:07pm

    PROTECT IP will harm public health

    Thanks for this article. Senator Leahy's constituents should know about this serious contradiction. FYI, Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kohl (D-WI) are also sponsors of both bills.

    The PROTECT IP Act contains specific language that targets all non-U.S. based online pharmacies—classifying them as a risk to public health.

    Over a million Americans currently import their drugs from Canadian and other international pharmacies. The do it because they can’t afford the price of drugs at home.

    Big pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly would be thrilled if such legislation passed. That would mean that they could keep charging unreasonable prices for their drugs. And raking in the profits.

    But what about the many Americans that rely on this virtual lifeline? The implications for them are grave—far worse than for the people who can no longer download pirated movies. This bill presents a serious public health risk. Find out more at

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    JOSE H. BELAVAL, 6 Jun 2011 @ 2:02pm

    The right to buy Meds from Canada from reputable pharmacies

    i have been a customer of get canadian drugs.
    its my legal right to buy in cnada from reputable corp. like get canadian
    for over 6 yrs with only positive results a remarks.
    the gov.cannot deny my rights to buy from whom ever i chose.
    Jose H. Belaval
    Cutler Bay, fl. 33157

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Lynn Brown, 16 Aug 2011 @ 4:34pm

    I thought this was America - Home of the FREE

    Incredible - what this online drug lesislation would do is KILL PEOPLE. I deal with Canada Drugs. com and have for many years. I have never had an issue or problem with them. Now, why do I personally use an out of the country Pharmacy? Because OUR country lets the drug companies hold their patents for 20 years while other countries can only hold them for 6. So, while our drug companies are continuing to hold their huge profit margins, I want to go to the country that has the SAME DRUG for a fraction of the price. I buy the generic version of the drug I take and get this - first, I can't buy the generic version in America at all and second, the generic form of the drug costs me $124. for a 6 month supply. In America, the non-generic drug would cost me $720. Listen up from Congressmen to Senators to Governors - people are sick and tired of being "protected" in the name of Drug company profits. Thank GOD we live in acountry where we can vote - because I know I will be watching closely and telling everyone I know to vote for the person who pledges to help their constituents obtain affordable drugs and healthcare. Sorry, but I think it's absoultely ridiculous that America is #34 on the list of the best healthcare countries. I believe in entrepeneurship and making a profit, but where does it end and at what cost?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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