1st October, 2002
By Julie Rovner
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Supporters and opponents of legislation pending in the US House that would make it easier for generic copies of brand-name medicines to get to market faced off on Capitol Hill Tuesday. But it appears unlikely the measure will come before the full House for a vote before the session ends later this month.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents brand-name drugmakers and opposes the generic bill that passed the Senate in July, joined with Spotlight Health, which uses celebrities for health education programs, to urge the House not to approve the measure.
"If we stop the ability to do research, there will be no hope," said actor and talk show host Montel Williams, who has multiple sclerosis. Williams and other celebrities, including talk show host Leeza Gibbons, repeated PhRMA's case that the bill would cut back on the patent life of brand-name drugs and thus reduce the incentive for companies to develop new ones.
"What we're saying is the current system is working," said Gibbons, whose mother has Alzheimer's disease. "This is not about money. This is about saving lives. This is about keeping the product pipeline flowing."
But RxHealth Value, a coalition of employer, insurance and consumer groups that supports the generic bill, released polling data collected by the senior group AARP that found broad public support for the measure. The poll of 1,046 adults over age 45, conducted September 13-17, found that 84% of respondents "strongly believe that making generic drugs more available is an important part of the solution to rapidly increasing drug prices." Two-thirds supported legislation that would "close loopholes used by some pharmaceutical companies to prevent generic drugs from being made available to consumers." The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
The group urged the House to act this year, lest rising drug costs drive
more employers out of the business of providing coverage to their workers.
"The continued inclusion of prescription drug coverage in employer-based
healthcare coverage depends--in no small part--on Federal action to constrain
prescription drug costs," said Dr. Sharon Levine of Kaiser-Permanente,
a member of the RxValue coalition.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited