House passes prescription-drug bill


Although the House of Representatives late last week passed a bill, 221-208,
to establish a prescription-drug benefit as part of Medicare, the final version
of the bill included no language regarding advertising prescription drugs on

Earlier versions of the bill being considered by the House Energy and
Commerce Committee included a study requiring the General Accounting Office
to look at whether advertising prescription drugs on television increases
the cost of the drugs to consumers.

The study had been included as part of a compromise struck between House
Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and House Ways and
Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), both of whose committees have
jurisdiction over parts of the prescription-drug issue.

The provision with the GAO study was removed when the bill's sponsors became
concerned that any controversial provisions would keep it from passing.

As a result, all portions of the bill not related directed to Medicare and
Medicaid were removed, including the study.

Meanwhile, there is still a chance that a provision regarding
prescription-drug advertising could find its way into the bill that Senate Democrats
plan to introduce.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) wants to include language that would keep
pharmaceutical companies from taking a tax deduction on any advertising and
marketing costs that exceed their research-and-development budgets.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has said he would like to hold a
floor debate on prescription drugs after the Fourth of July recess.