Finance Committee to Draft Rx Drug Benefit Bill in September
Members of the Senate Finance Committee will most likely draft a bipartisan Medicare prescription drug benefit bill in September, when Congress resumes business after the August recess, CongressDailyAM reports. Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said he originally intended to mark up a bill by the end of July, but such an action now is "unlikely to happen until September." Committee members are expected to meet with drug companies and pharmaceutical benefits managers -- who are "expected to play key roles in any delivery system Congress sets up" -- over the next few days CongressDailyAM reports.
In other pharmaceutical company news, drug industry representatives defended the growth of "direct-to-consumer" advertisement spending during a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. Nancy Chockley, president of the National Institute for Health Care Management, said that the most advertised drugs are responsible for increases in prescription drug expenditures. She added, "The 50 drugs most heavily advertised to consumers in 2000 had an aggregate sales increase last year of 32%, compared to 14% for all other drugs. Simply put, DTC advertising works." Gregory Glover, a physician and attorney, who testified on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Direct-to-consumer advertising provides a valuable resource for patients to obtain information about specific diseases, conditions and treatments, particularly in rural areas of the country where access to providers and health care information may be difficult." Nancy Ostrove of the FDA said that both arguments "have merit," but "questioned" Chockley's figures, stating that "it's hard to tease out the effect of DTC advertising on spending increases" because pharmaceutical companies "typically market drugs simultaneously to health care providers." Ostrove said that although DTC ads may promote "inappropriate prescribing" of some drugs, she added, "At this time there is no evidence that DTC advertising is harming the public health" (Fulton/Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 7/25).