Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Effort to lower prescription drug prices hits a snag

What is Joe Manchin doing? The House version sounds like something he should be backing.
Senators took the House’s “hammer” out of legislation to give the state’s new pharmaceutical advocate power to negotiate prescription drug price discounts with drug manufacturers (HB2852).

Senate Health and Human Resources Committee members Wednesday removed House provisions that would have set the deeply discounted Federal Supply Schedule as the benchmark for state price negotiations.

It would have required drug companies to seek waivers to justify prices above the FSS for drugs sold to state-managed health-care plans. Companies could use any grounds — except costs for advertising and direct marketing — to make their cases.

In a packed committee room Wednesday — including many drug company representatives wearing “Keep West Virginia Open For Business — No Price Controls” buttons — the Senate panel put the bill back to the original form introduced by Gov. Joe Manchin.

The governor’s bill is much more vague about using the FSS as a beginning point for negotiations, and does not have a waiver provision that could be invoked if drug companies refuse to negotiate in good faith.

Afterward, a visibly agitated House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, said the Senate changes mean the bill “at minimum” is headed for a House-Senate conference committee to try to come up with a compromise before the session ends at midnight Saturday.

“I don’t want to draw a line in the sand here,” Kiss said. “The process worked last year. It can work this year.”

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