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Rx Drugs

July 23, 2003 | Daily News

Medicare legislation passed by the House and Senate last month both cost more than the allotted $400 billion budget mark, new cost estimates reveal, worsening the headache for Medicare conferees tasked with melding the competing bills. Tagged at $461 billion over 10 years, the Senate score was boosted in large part by a lone $40 billion pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) disclosure provision -- casting serious doubt over the amendment's future.

July 22, 2003 | Daily News

Seeking higher Medicare reimbursement rates, a key patient advocacy group is urging Congress to add language to the Medicare conference report to exclude rare disease therapies from Medicare's hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS). The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) says the policy change would help ensure patient access to such products -- access it contends is restricted under Medicare's current hospital outpatient system.

July 22, 2003 | Daily News

The chairmen of three key committees involved in the debate over medicare reform have pledged to hold Congress' final reform bill within the $400 billion target.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said July 22 that the House and Senate Medicare reform bills would exceed the near half-trillion-dollar mark.

July 21, 2003 | Daily News

The House is slated to vote on Rep. Gil Gutknecht's (R-MN) reimportation bill late Wednesday or Thursday, a congressional source says. The source says Gutknecht would not oppose an amendment that would limit prescription drug reimportation to drugs from Canada.

Last week congressional sources had said that Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), a cosponsor of Gutknecht's bill, might try to limit the bill to Canada. The source did not know if Emerson plans to file any amendments to the reimportation bill.

July 18, 2003 | Daily News

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is floating the possibility of including tax incentives to maintain employer drug coverage in the Medicare conference report. Employers already secured last-minute changes to the Senate bill that facilitate their ability to provide retiree coverage through private Medicare plans.

July 17, 2003 | Daily News

New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania lawmakers combined to obtain federal funding for their states' elderly prescription drug plans in the Senate Medicare legislation, and, along with House members from New York, are pushing to keep the provision intact in conference, where it faces opposition from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA).

July 16, 2003 | Daily News

Conservative House Republicans are strongly criticizing a pro-life group for running an ad campaign against legislation allowing reimportation and one senior GOP lawmaker accused the pharmaceutical industry of funding the campaign and manipulating the pro-life group into making the bill an abortion issue.

July 16, 2003 | Daily News

Citing safety concerns, the most senior House Democrat is speaking out against legislation likely to be taken up in the House next week that would open the country's borders to drug reimportation by parties other than drug companies. In a July 10 "Dear Colleague" letter, Dingell (D-MI), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Democrats the issue of safety "is not merely a makeweight matter trotted out as part of this debate -- it is a legitimate issue that all must confront."

July 16, 2003 | Daily News

Oncologists descended on Capitol Hill this week in a mass effort to avert steep cuts to cancer care funding under the Medicare bills' reform of the Average Wholesale Price (AWP) reimbursement system, as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) scaled back demands and is willing to live with a cut of up to 6 percent, a source with the group said.

July 16, 2003 | Daily News

In an unusually strong stance, AARP is throwing its weight into the Medicare conference debate with an ultimatum that it will oppose Congress' final drug plan unless the bill remedies key issues, such as eliminating the House bill's premium support provision.

July 15, 2003 | Daily News

In an unexpected political move, House Democrats have tapped a conservative Blue Dog Democrat to help Senate and House lawmakers merge their competing Medicare drug bills. The announcement comes after House Republicans stood their ground on two key issues dividing the House and Senate plans, fending off a bid by Democrats to move toward the Senate proposal.

July 15, 2003 | Daily News

The House-Senate Medicare conference began July 15 with House Republicans emphasizing a need to include measures that reign in Medicare costs while the Senate's Republican and Democrat conferees reiterated their commitment to a bipartisan bill. The conferees plan to set up working groups to tackle key issues and will reconvene early next week.

The exchange of opening statements for the most part skirted specific differences between the House and Senate Medicare prescription drug bills but underlined the contrasting approaches in the two chambers.

July 14, 2003 | Daily News

Conservative House Republicans are seeking to enlist President Bush in their fight to preserve the House Medicare bill's mandate for public-private Medicare competition and attached health savings account legislation as conference negotiations with the Senate kick off this week.

July 11, 2003 | Daily News

With states again facing a dismal fiscal outlook, the nation's governors are lobbying Congress to adopt a House proposal to shift the prescription drug costs of seniors enrolled in Medicaid to the federal government when the House and Senate merge their landmark Medicare drug plans.

Transferring responsibility to the federal government for the 6 million so-called dual eligibles -- low-income Medicare beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicaid coverage -- is the top priority for governors when congressional conferees begin drafting a final Medicare bill.

July 09, 2003 | Daily News

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee says President Bush's involvement in the upcoming Medicare conference talks is key to ensuring a quick resolution. The lawmaker predicts there is a 90 percent chance that Medicare reform will be signed into law this year, despite his view that there are a half dozen controversial issues that may be difficult for conferees to resolve.

July 09, 2003 | Daily News

House leaders tweaked language allowing commercial reimportation of cut-price Canadian pharmaceuticals in an effort to ease FDA's ability to enact safety regulations and gain votes for Medicare prescription drug legislation, but kept a provision from the Senate bill that allows reimportation to remain indefinitely on hold pending approval from the HHS secretary.

Drug reimportation is one of many issues that will be addressed in the upcoming Medicare reform conference where House and Senate lawmakers will meld their bills.

July 08, 2003 | Daily News

Senate Democrats fired the opening salvo on the Medicare conference debate today (July 8) with a warning that they will not support a Medicare bill that deviates from key aspects of the Senate-passed plan. The stance -- issued on the eve of bicameral conference negotiations -- kick-starts what many predict will be lengthy and difficult Medicare negotiations.

July 08, 2003 | Daily News

The conference to reconcile the House and Senate Medicare bills must take into account both the bipartisan support needed for Senate passage and the narrow margin of support in the House, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is pushing to wrap up the conference by the end of September at the latest.

"I have to be cognizant of getting a bill through the House as well as getting one through the Senate," Grassley said.

July 07, 2003 | Daily News

House Democrats are planning to ask Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to support language in the Senate Medicare reform bill during the upcoming conference talks that would ensure members of Congress do not get a better drug benefit than Medicare beneficiaries. Reports are circulating that Senate Republicans may attempt to strip the provision during conference.

July 07, 2003 | Daily News

Sens. Kit Bond (R-MO) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) attached to the Senate Medicare drug benefit a measure that would set up an FDA pharmacy compounding advisory committee. FDA disbanded a similar committee following the Supreme Court's decision to strike the FDA Modernization Act (FDAMA) pharmacy compounding provision.

Pharmacy compounding is the mixing of drugs to meet the needs of a patient who cannot take a ready-made drug. Removing a preservative a patient may be allergic to is an example of traditional pharmacy compounding.