Amidst all the angst and acrimony of last year's trench-warfare presidential campaign, there was one area in which the two major-party candidates purported to agree. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favored allowing the importation of cheap drugs from Canada.
Drug reimportation would be a no-brainer policy move if actual human beings ran our government. Disgust with high prescription drug prices is nearly universal – 77 percent say drug prices are "unreasonable" – and 71 percent of respondents favor allowing the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada.
The entire pharmaceutical industry is floated by a protectionist racket. Drugs that are in fact very cheap to make are kept artificially expensive – we have drugs that cost $1,000 a pill here in America that sell for $4 in India, for instance.
The means of keeping prices high vary, but include lengthy patents to push production of generics into the future, the barring of foreign competition (usually on "safety" grounds), and the prohibition of negotiations to lower prices for bulk purchases by both the federal and state governments. Without government intervention, the pharmaceutical industry would be profitable, but it wouldn't be the massive cash factory it is now. In 2015, for instance, the 20 largest drug companies made a collective $124 billion in profits.
All the industry needs to protect those sums is the continued cooperation of Congress.
So naturally it spends money – not a lot by industry standards, but a ton by the standards of the ludicrously cheap dates we call federal politicians – to make sure they always have just enough dependable people in office to block change.