Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., andDavid Herman, Exec. Dir. of the Seniors Coalition

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This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, July 15, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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BRENDA BUTTNER, GUEST HOST: My next guest wants to get the last word. Congressman Rahm Emanuel says pharmaceutical price gouging is hurting our seniors. So he’s encouraging them to look elsewhere for cheaper drugs, even if it means shopping across the border. In the meantime, he’s sponsored a bill to make all this legal.

Joining me now from Washington, Congressman Rahm Emanuel.

Congressman thanks for joining us.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL, D-ILL.: Hey, Brenda. How are you?

BUTTNER: I’m well. Thanks. So you say get the drugs, however you have to, go to Canada (search), go to Mexico?

EMANUEL: Well, no. What I actually said -- we have a bipartisan bill with a number of Democrats and Republicans. We had a press conference today with people like Dan Burton, not exactly somebody I see eye to eye with.

We have overwhelming support of bipartisan -- that says that you are allowed to buy the medications in Canada, England, France, Germany where the prices there are 50-percent cheaper than they are here in the United States.

We would import the more affordable medications (search). Competition would make the medication better and more -- it would make medication more affordable to our seniors and to all our American families.

Second, we’re about to embark on the largest expansion of an entitlement program, Medicare, in 40 years, $400 billion. I think you owe the taxpayers the respect to make sure that the money we’re going to go purchase with their dollars -- that we get biggest bang for their money.

And we shouldn’t be paying the highest premium price. We should be paying the price that is most affordable to get the medication, and we have been bankrolling the poor Swiss, the poor Germans, the poor French, the poor English, the poor Canadians with our research dollars and what I’m saying is bring competition to market. The taxpayer will get the benefit as well as the seniors who need it.

BUTTNER: But critics say it’s dangerous because it’s difficult to guarantee the safety of those drugs. They could be expired. They’re not under FDA approval.

EMANUEL: Well, Brenda, you know the answer. First of all, 80 members of the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, voted for that legislation. The FDA approves the medication. That’s what our bill calls for explicitly.

And the FDA approves the facilities and the medications, and those same facilities in the United States and in parts of Europe that manufacture the medications manufacture them for the United States market, as they do for England, Canada, France, or Germany.

BUTTNER: You’re saying only buy U.S. drugs from Canada, from Britain, from whatever.

EMANUEL: It’s very specific, Brenda. I mean I’m surprised at the question, in this one respect, is it’s FDA-approved medications.

BUTTNER: Yes, it still could be expired. It still could be contaminated.

EMANUEL: Brenda, we import today food from other countries. Now you’ve done stories about people who’ve gotten sick from strawberries.

You’ve never done a story about somebody getting sick who goes over the border in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in Minnesota, who bought their medications, because they’re more affordable, in Canada because it doesn’t happen, because they’re FDA-approved medications.

It doesn’t happen. That’s a red herring.

BUTTNER: What kind of money are we talking about here? How much could this save a senior?

EMANUEL: Well, right now, I don’t have them with me, but we gave you a chart. Hopefully, you’ll put it on the screen, but we did 10 medications, of the most common medications prescribed to seniors.

In the German pharmacy at the airport, they were $373. The same medications in the United States were $1,037. It was a 700-buck spread.

So, if you extrapolate, I would say this is close to about a $400- billion saving to $500-billion saving over the next 10 years because that competition would bring -- that would be brought to bear in the market would lower the prices here for seniors and American families of all ilk who need those medications.

BUTTNER: Thank you, sir.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

BUTTNER: Appreciate your insight.

And now the flip side. David Herman is the executive director of the Seniors Coalition and says, while his organization is tied to pharmaceuticals, he wants to be very clear that’s not his motivation. The bottom line, he says, foreign drugs are a risk, and allowing Americans access to those drugs is also a risk.

David Herman, welcome.


BUTTNER: So what is the risk? I mean if these are FDA-approved, if these are American drugs that have just made their way to Canada and are a lot cheaper, what’s the problem?

HERMAN: Well, the problem is that’s not true.

But let me show you a red herring since the congressman brought one up. This is a drug called Humatrope. It’s made by Eli Lilly (LLY). Here’s another box of Humatrope. It says Eli Lilly. These two boxes appear identical. Humatrope is a human growth hormone. It’s used to in pediatric care, and it’s a pretty important drug.

This one has human growth hormone. This one has animal growth hormone. It’s not the same drug. It’s counterfeit. I can’t tell them apart. That’s the red herring the congressman’s talking about.

BUTTNER: Yes, but that could happen here in the United States. That doesn’t just happen overseas.

HERMAN: No, but we have controls here in the United States based on FDA approvals that are incredibly important. If you look at the testimony of the FDA on June 23 and June 24 of this year, they have flatly said they cannot vouch for the efficacy of these offshore drugs.

Even an FDA-approved drug when shipped to -- by vat to a -- let’s say a hospital in another country and then repackaged can be adulterated. When you open up the Internet and the importation of these drugs on a willy-nilly basis, you’re going to get the equivalent of the $10 Rolex on the corner in New York. It says Rolex, it looks like it’s gold, and it probably works for a week with a very inexpensive quartz movement.

There are a lot of people that will take advantage of anyone trying to save a dollar, and, in fact, you’re going to see a gray market in counterfeit drugs. You’re going to see adulterated drugs.


HERMAN: The Canadian ministry will not vouch for the safety of drugs from Canada.

BUTTNER: So you’re worried about the safety. Now, sir, you are paid for in part by the pharmaceutical industry.

HERMAN: Well, let’s deal with that. We’re right now running some ads that the congressman takes some umbrage at, and the organization is Safe Medicines, the Partnership for Safe Medicines. They have a Web site, and anyone in the audience can look them up. It’s You’ll see upwards of 20 members of that partnership.

BUTTNER: Can you just answer my question? Are you paid for in part by the pharmaceutical industry?

HERMAN: Unrestricted grants to us. In fact, we get money from pharmaceutical industry.

BUTTNER: So that would make sense.

HERMAN: We also get it from a lot of places.

BUTTNER: They’re going to lose a lot of money.

HERMAN: Sure they are.

BUTTNER: So it would make sense that this is the tactic you would take.

HERMAN: Absolutely. We look for people who have a common cause with our cause, and we join together with them. We have fought the pharmaceutical industry. We’ve partnered with the pharmaceutical industry. We don’t see that as a bad thing. We see that as helping our constituency. Our issue is policies and seniors. It’s not industries.

BUTTNER: All right. Sir, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

HERMAN: Thank you.

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