Capitol Hill Watch
Senate Begins Debate
on the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act 2001 (S. 821)
The Senate has started debate on the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act of 2001 (S.821). ( Full Text Of Legislation: S. 812, the Affordable Pharmaceuticals bill.). The measure attempts to limit the use of patent
law to limit brand-name pharmaceutical companies to one 30-month stay
per generic application. To win continuous delays, many companies have
filed repeated stays.
An enormous expense to pharmaceutical companies is the research and development
required to bring brand-name medicines to the market place. For example,
for each successful medicine that makes it to the marketplace it takes
an average of 12-15 years at a cost of over $800 million.
Such actions by the Senate bill would prevent pharmaceutical companies
from recouping the costs of medications that people really need. Proponents of such often forget that these
medicines reduce medical cost like hospitalization. Furthermore, this measure in the long-term would discourage pharmaceutical
companies from pursuing life-saving state-of the-art medicines.
Also, there will be efforts to add
a Medicare prescription drug benefit to this bill; several plans have
already been offered. The least
expensive so far is a 10 year, $160 billion dollar proposal offered
by Senators John Ensign (Republican-Nevada) and Chuck Hagel (Republican-Nebraska). This plan, which relies mostly on a Bush administration
proposal, would have seniors receive savings by purchasing private discount
cards for $25. Once a senior
citizen reached limits set according to income, the government would
provide financial assistance. The
poorest seniors for example would have a $1,500 cap.
A beneficiary would pay no more than 10 percent of the cost of
each prescription after the cap was met.
A plan that would cost $370 billion
over 10 years is being offered by a tripartisan group that includes
several Republicans, along with Senator John Breaux (Democrat-Louisiana)
and Senator James Jeffords (Independent-Vermont)
Similar to a bill that has already passed the House of Representatives,
beneficiaries would pay a monthly premium of $24 and have a $250 annual
deductible. The government would
pay 50 percent up to $3,450 in drug spending once the deductible was
met. Responsible for the costs until they reached
$3,700 in spending (a gap of about $250) would be every beneficiary
except the poorest. The beneficiary
would be liable for 10 percent of the cost, and the government would
pay 90 percent of the cost once the cap was reached.
The most generous proposal has been
offered by Senate Democrats. This
plan requires a $25 monthly premium and a $10 co-payment on generic
drugs or a $40 co-payment on brand-name drugs to be paid by the beneficiaries. A $4,000 annual cap would be established for
The Senate does not need to burden
the American taxpayer with another big government entitlement program
such as a prescription drug benefit subsidy.
What Can You Do?
your senators Not To Support Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act of
2001 (S.821) as well as a prescription drug benefit to the bill.
Hill Switchboard Numbers: 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121 (Those numbers
will direct you to the Capitol Hill operator. Ask for your senator's
To go to
your senators' websites, find their E-mail or to find out who your senators
to the American Voice Institute of Public Policy Home Page