Senate votes down new pharma cuts

Breathe easier, Big Pharma. The industry's $80 billion deal with lawmakers lives to fight another day. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee voted down an amendment that would have forced bigger cost cuts on drugmakers, essentially breaking the agreement forged by PhRMA and Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the committee.

You'll recall that Democratic senators backed an amendment to require bigger discounts on drugs for low-income folks on Medicare. Early estimates said it would have cost drugmakers $86 billion. Another provision would have closed the medicare doughnut hole, bringing the cost up to more than $100 billion over 10 years. Proponents, including Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Bill Nelson, said they weren't party to the $80 billion industry deal.

Opponents voted the measure down for a variety of reasons: Some Democrats said they wanted to stand by the promise made to PhRMA, saying "a deal's a deal." Republicans such as Sen. Charles Grassley called the mandatory rebates "price controls" and said they'd end up raising drug prices for private patients.

We wonder whether any of them thought about the millions and millions of dollars PhRMA has promised to spend on advertising in support of healthcare reform. They were certainly aware of the fact that drugmakers would be angry. Delaware Sen. Thomas Carper said extracting more money from drugmakers would cause a backlash from the industry: "I know I would walk away" from supporting healthcare reform, he said.

- see the New York Times coverage
- check out the post at NPR
- read the Wall Street Journal article