Discharge petition reaches the House, draws fire

May 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

A discharge petition for the Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act has been issued by the Democratic members of the House of Representatives. The petition, which seeks to circumvent the committee system for the bill, had 144 signatures as of press time, short of the 218 votes needed to get the bill out of committee.

A discharge petition for the Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act has been issued by the Democratic members of the House of Representatives. The petition, which seeks to circumvent the committee system for the bill, had 144 signatures as of press time, short of the 218 votes needed to get the bill out of committee.

The petition has come under fire from many House Democrats. "Discharging [the bill] to the floor would preclude consideration of a full range of solutions," read a "Dear Democratic Colleague" letter co written by Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Adam Smith (D-WA). "We expect it would only heighten the partisan debate on an issue too important to our seniors. We need action.... Signing a discharge petition could short-circuit the consideration of ideas on the very prescription drug benefit that each of us hopes to achieve this year."

If passed, the Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act would require that retail pharmacies selling to senior citizens be given the same discount schedule, between 24 and 40%, that the U.S. government is given for their health agencies and clinics.

The bill itself has been criticized because it does not actually require the pharmacies it extends discounts to to pass those savings on to their customers. Said Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Calvin Dooly (D-CA) in their "Dear Democratic Colleague" letter, "Pharmacies could use the VA discount to subsidize the price of candy or toilet paper, or they could give lower prices to seniors. Nothing in the bill even requires the pharmacies to pass the savings along to anyone. The pharmacy could legally use the discount to improve profits." PR

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