DRUG COSTS: Bill Would Give Seniors Bulk Discounts
House Democrats yesterday introduced a bill that would slash drug costs for seniors by allowing them to buy drugs at the same steep discounts available to HMOs, the Boston Globe reports (Kornblut, 2/11). The Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act, sponsored by Reps. John Tierney (D-MA) and Tom Allen (D-ME), aims to reduce seniors' drug costs by up to 50%. The bill would allow the Veterans Administration to buy prescription pharmaceuticals in bulk and sell them to seniors who lack drug coverage, the Portland Press Herald reports (2/10). Tierney said: "Seniors are only 12% of the population, but they use 37% of prescription drugs ... and Medicare, in many instances, does not cover it. This is an industry that has probably the best profit margin of any industry anywhere. ... [W]e should do something that would give people that are most in need the buying power they need."
The act, introduced in nearly identical form last year, faces stiff opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. Alan Holmer, president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Policy makers should focus on comprehensive reform of Medicare rather than create stand-alone measures that aren't in the long-term interest of seniors and other patients" (Globe, 2/11). CongressDaily reports that "leading the effort" along with Allen are Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Marion Berry (D-AR) (Rovner/Serafini, 2/10).