Saturday, November 21, 2009

Details from Reid's Health Care Bill.

Yesterday the AP reported on some details in the health care bill that will be presented before the Senate. Tonight, senators will vote on whether or not to vote on the bill. I post this because it concerns a pet interest of mine, generic drugs, and because it continues the "murky" characterization given to "assisted suicide."

To clarify the sloppy reporting, there is nothing murky about Oregon or Washington's Death with Dignity bills. They are strict and clear; legal services approved by a majority of the states' citizens. And according to studies, they work very well, thank you. What may be yet unclarified is the pending case in Montana where aid in dying could, by the end of the year, be declared constitutional by the Montana Supreme Court. How that constitutionality is then defined remains to be seen:

In the latest round of a bitter struggle over the country's $46 billion market for biological drugs, the Senate bill extends the protection some brand-name manufacturers would get from generic competitors.

The drugs, made from living cells, are a growing part of the pharmaceutical market. Benefiting from a well-financed lobbying campaign and influential supporters, the manufacturers won language in the Senate health committee bill — and in the House-passed health overhaul legislation — giving them 12 years of protection from generic competitors.

Reid's bill would add another six months of protection for drugmakers who also test those products for use by children. Generic companies want to be able to compete immediately.

Kathleen Jaeger, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, said Reid's decision represents "a total hijack" by drug manufacturers that she said will keep consumers' costs higher for a longer time. Ken Johnson, a senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said drugmakers pursued the issue with senators and that the extra six months of protection gives companies an incentive to make products for children.

The bill also has language prohibiting the government from discriminating against health care providers that refuse to provide services for assisted suicides.

Similar provisions were included in earlier versions by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The legal status of the practice is murky in much of the country, with Oregon and Washington the only states with voter-approved assisted suicide laws and a court case pending in Montana.

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