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Capitol Hill Watch Alert

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 out-of-pocket expenditures.

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?

Urge 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.

Contact Information:

Capitol 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 office.)

To go to your senators' websites, find their E-mail or to find out who your senators are... http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm




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