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GCN Guest Opinion
Lower-Priced Medicine
by: Sen. Trent Lott       Filed 3/16/07 GCN

      The AARP is trying to bully Members of Congress into legislating government interference in your prescription drug program.  When was the last time more bureaucratic red tape improved any program?

It hasn’t, but I have joined in introducing legislation that will cut prescription drug prices by making lower-priced generic drugs more readily available.

In the five years between 1999 and 2004, brand name prescription drug prices for the medications most widely used by seniors skyrocketed 35 percent, more than twice the rate of general inflation.

Of those top 25 drugs, the only one that didn’t have a price increase was a drug available in both generic and over-the-counter form.  It’s significant when you consider that generic drugs cost about $72 less than brand name prescriptions.

The way to lower the cost of medicine is simple:  Make generic drugs more readily available and close loopholes that drug companies now use to maximize their profits by delaying their drugs from becoming generic.

I recognize that brand name drugs play an important role, but if prescription drugs aren’t affordable, they can’t help most folks.

Generic drugs can provide a balance between the companies’ need for research and development funding and the consumers’ need for affordability.

Current law is supposed to guarantee that generic drugs come to market within a reasonable time, but it’s clear some drug companies, seeking to increase profits, have found ways around this.

My bill, the “Lower Priced Drugs Act,” will close loopholes that restrict generics from entering the market in a timely way.  It would prevent delays in the generic drug approval process by clarifying current laws drug companies use to slowroll the use of generic drugs.

These tactics often delay generic availability well beyond 30 months, and in some cases can postpone it indefinitely.

My bill says courts can now consider whether brand manufacturers are deliberately delaying the generic approval process.

The bill also will establish new guidelines to prevent abuse of the so-called “citizen petition process.”  Unlike the term suggests, the Federal Drug Administration says brand drug companies often co-opt this petition process by filing their own “citizen” petitions at the same time patent protection for their products is expiring or as patent litigation is closing.

The bill also will clarify the pediatric exclusivity provision that was originally designed to allow drug companies time to evaluate a drug’s impact on children.  This is important, but here, too, drug companies have found ways to use this provision to slow roll products poised to become generic.  In many cases the companies have initiated clearly unneeded studies designed to protect drug companies instead of consumers.

My bipartisan legislation has the broad support of AARP and many consumer groups, but, most notably, it has the support of many American employers, including the big three domestic automakers.  General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler are now reeling from skyrocketing health care costs that threaten their survival.  American businesses know this bill will help them become more competitive.

Making generic drugs more readily available will help millions of Americans get affordable drugs they need and millions more keep their jobs and paychecks. 

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email

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