National Nurses United today sharply criticized 13 Senate Democrats who defeated an amendment that would have aided tens of millions of patients struggling with skyrocketing prescription drug costs, voting instead Tuesday night to ally with the pharmaceutical industry.
The critical test was on an amendment proposed by fellow Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by allowing the import of needed medications from Canada where drug prices are far less expensive.
Democratic Senators Michael Bennet (CO), Cory Booker (NJ), Maria Cantwell (WA), Tom Carper (DE), Robert Casey (PA), Chris Coons (DE), Martin Heinrich (NM), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Robert Menendez (NJ), Patty Murray (WA), Jon Tester (MT), and Mark Warner (VA) all voted against it.
“This vote is a disgraceful betrayal of every patient and consumer in America,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU.
And, with 11 Republican Senators, including several of the most conservative Republicans, voting for the amendment, which only failed 52-46, the amendment would have passed by a large margin if the 13 Democrats had not “embraced the profiteering of the wealthy drug cartels at the expense of our families, our neighbors, and our communities,” DeMoro said.
She noted that four of the Democrats who voted against patients – Booker, Murray, Casey, and Bennet – are among the top 10 recipients of pharmaceutical campaign contributions since 2010, an “indication of where they think their interests clearly lie.”
“At a time when even President-elect Donald Trump, in his press conference Wednesday, called out the lobbying of the pharmaceutical industry and said they are ‘getting away with murder’, these 13 Democrats demonstrate why so their party has lost so many federal and state elections over the past eight years,” DeMoro said.
“Millions of voters believe the Democrats have abandoned working people in favor of Wall Street and corporate donors. The Democratic Party will never get out of the wilderness until there is a fundamental change in its direction and orientation, until it can show doesn’t just oppose rightwing policies, but has a progressive vision and fights for it,” said DeMoro.
This fall, when a California initiative to lower drug prices also failed after being outspent by about 10-1 by the pharmaceutical industry, many leading Democrats sat on the sidelines while nurses campaigned across the state for the measure, citing the consequences of drug price gouging on patients they see.
“I can tell you the story of a young man in his late 40s living on a fixed income, working two jobs, who was diagnosed with high blood pressure,” reported Fresno RN Amy Arlund. “This one medication was going to cost him over $400 a month. ‘I’m young, still in my 40s,’ he thought, ‘I’ll just have to live with it a little longer.’ About three months after this diagnosis, because he could not afford to take his blood pressure medication, he had a massive stroke and is now permanently disabled.”
“One thing Long Beach nurses increasingly see is patients provided a heart stent for serious coronary disease sent home with directions to take anti-platelet drugs for continuing therapy, are returning to the ER with serious chest pain. Or dying before they get there. Why? They can’t afford the high out-of-pocket cost for their medication,” noted Long Beach RN Margie Keenan.