Rx DRUG COSTS II: House Passes ‘Reasonable Prices’ Bill
In a display of election-year bipartisanship, the House approved a provision this week that would force pharmaceutical companies to charge "reasonable" prices for products they developed through federally financed, NIH basic research, the Associated Press reports. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), cleared the House by a 313-109 margin. "This is nothing more than asking a fair return for the taxpayers of this country for their investment [in biomedical research]," Sanders said. According to Sanders spokesperson David Sirota, the provision would not apply to existing market products, such as tamoxifen, AZT and taxol. Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.) contested the plan, claiming that all companies have access to NIH basic research and developing products from those findings is "simply adding to a body of knowledge that is available to all companies everywhere." Drug companies also oppose the measure, arguing that the billions of dollars they invest in developing new drugs justifies their high prices (Fram, 6/13).
Stark Continues Crusade Against Drug Ads
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, also entered the drug price war, proposing legislation that would tighten rules on drug company advertising. The "Fair Balance Prescription Drug Advertisement Act" would deny tax deductions for direct-to-consumer ads that place more emphasis on product benefits than risks or fail to meet other FDA standards. "Drug companies spend billions every year to push their products on unsuspecting consumers with ads that emphasize the 'good news' -- product benefits. These ads generally fail to clearly explain the 'bad news' -- important information about risks and side effects," Stark said, concluding, "Misleading, slanted drug advertisement must end." In 1997, the FDA relaxed rules on pharmaceutical advertising, a move Stark claims has contributed to higher drug prices, increased doctor visits and higher overall health care expenditures. The pharmaceutical industry spent about $2 billion on advertising last year (Stark release, 6/15).