An early test for liability reform may surface in proposals to expand Project BioShield. Sponsors of legislation to boost
federal support for research and development of new counterterrorism vaccines and treatments want to provide liability protections
for manufacturers of products likely to be used in high-risk situations. Democrats have opposed such safeguards as a giveaway
to Big Pharma, but a more conservative Senate could prevail.
Drug importing. Even though Democrats failed to parlay support for increased purchase of drugs from Canada and other Western nations into
victory, the drug import campaign is not likely to die down. For both political and fiscal reasons, the White House will be
looking for ways to identify "safe" foreign sources of less costly medicines. Several of the new Republican senators championed
broader drug importing as one way to expand access to affordable medicines and will be seeking to fulfill their promises.
Stem cell research. The Bush victory puts on hold efforts to expand federal support for research that involves destroying human embryos. Instead,
research will shift more to private and state programs. California voters approved an initiative to provide state funding
for stem cell research, and other states may follow suit. Moderate Republicans in Congress hope that the California action
will spur legislation to modify the Bush policy, but the President has little reason to revise his current stance.
Tax incentives. As in the past, the Bush administration will look to tax breaks and market incentives to provide more options for individuals
to obtain healthcare coverage. The prime vehicle is the tax-deductible health savings account coupled with a high-deductible,
lower-cost insurance plan. With most of the nation's 45 million uninsured holding jobs, Republicans want to encourage employers
to broaden coverage for workers as the best way to attain universal coverage. Any great expansion of these programs, however,
would be costly in terms of tax losses that could add to the budget deficit.
Jill Wechsler is Pharmaceutical Executive's Washington correspondent.