An angry Dorgan denounced a competing amendment that would permit drug imports if the Food and Drug Administration certifies it can be done without risks.
"Do not vote for this amendment and say you've done something about the price of prescription drugs because constituents will know better," Dorgan admonished his colleagues.
The alternative amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) also failed on a 56-43 vote. The House bill is silent on the issue.
Dorgan's plan would have allowed American pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import federally approved drugs from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan—placing them within reach of average consumers.
Both the pharmaceutical industry and the Obama administration were lobbying against the proposal, saying it would not protect people from potentially dangerous or ineffective drugs. Dorgan's plan would have cost drug makers billions of dollars and had bipartisan support.
A standoff over the proposal had complicated progress on healthcare overhaul, which has been snagged in the Senate for two weeks.
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