I didn't watch John Kerry's speech tonight. I'll watch a political speech made to a potentially hostile or sceptical audience (like the State of the Union) but not one made to an adoring throng, either throng. Life is too short.
But I've had some e-mail pointing out that Kerry whipped out a line about drug prices, which I presume was an applause-getter:
"Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada."
Of course, the law as it stands forbids any drug company from offering anyone a lower price than they offer Medicare. Ask Schering-Plough how that one works. But what Kerry is talking about is modifying the latest Medicare drug benefit, to allow the federal government to directly negotiate drug prices. My industry put up a serious battle to keep that from happening, and it's no secret why. This is a direct route to Federally mandated drug price controls. If you think that those are a good thing, then you like that idea - if not, you don't.
And as for importing drugs from Canada, well, I'll resist the temptation to start turning purple again. But I took Kerry's suggestion to go to his campaign website for more details:
"The Kerry-Edwards plan will reduce prescription drug prices by allowing the re-importation of safe prescription drugs from Canada, overhauling the Medicare drug plan, ensuring low-cost drugs, and ending artificial barriers to generic drug competition."
Now that word "safe" is an interesting one to drop in there. As many readers know, Congress has already passed a law making it legal to reimport drugs from Canada - but only if the FDA certifies their safety. And that the agency has refused to do, saying they don't have the resources to make such a guarantee. Is Kerry planning to give the FDA whatever it might need to go ahead and make the call? Or is this an escape clause to allow the status quo to prevail?
Well, if that Medicare idea comes true, it could be a moot point. There won't be much need to import drugs from Canada if we become Canada, will there?