PhRMA deal draws Senate fire

PhRMA's out-front position on healthcare reform may end up backfiring. When the Senate Finance Committee launched hearings yesterday on the latest reform bill, that $80 billion cost-cutting deal got roundhouse kicks from Democrats and Republicans alike.

One Democrat even pitched an amendment that would not only nullify that deal, but add another $86 billion in drug industry cuts. Senate bigwigs like John Kerry and Charles Schumer quickly signed on as co-sponsors. The amendment takes a tack familiar to anyone who's followed the House side of reform negotiations: It would roll back the switch of seniors from Medicaid to Medicare for drug-pricing purposes, thus subjecting millions more scrips to Medicaid-style rebates.

What's more, Schumer cast debate over the PhRMA deal as an indicator of just where lawmakers stand--with Joe and Josephine, average Americans, or with corporate interests. "This amendment is a metaphor ... for where this bill is headed," Schumer said (as quoted by the New York Times). "[H]ow often do we side with one of the interest groups, and how often do we side with the average citizens?"

A vote on the amendment will come today. But don't expect that outcome to end the fight over drug prices. Indeed, Sen. Harry Reid is already promising that the Senate will consider at reimportation by year's end, even if the issue doesn't come up in the reform debate. As you know, drugmakers are bitterly opposed.

- read the Dow Jones story
- check out the post at the NYT
- read the PharmaTimes article