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PhRMA agrees to support Medicare Part D legislation


WASHINGTON Drug companies have tentatively agreed to help patch up a hole in prescription drug coverage for elderly Americans.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced Saturday that it would support legislation introduced last week whereby drug companies would provide a 50% discount to most Medicare Part D beneficiaries for branded pharmaceutical and biotech drugs purchased within the coverage gap, a point after drug costs reach $2,700 a year, but before they reach $6,154, when patients must pay the full cost of their drugs.

In addition, the entire negotiated price of medicines purchased in the coverage gap would count toward beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs, thus lowering their total out-of-pocket spending.

“This commitment to support legislation that will help close the coverage gap reflects our ongoing work with Congress and the Administration to make comprehensive healthcare reform a reality this year,” a statement issued by PhRMA president and CEO Billy Tauzin and board chairman David Brennan read.

The agreement, made between the country's drug companies and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., drew applause from president Barack Obama, who said he expects to sign the legislation into law in October.

“We are at a turning point in America’s journey toward healthcare reform,” Obama said in a statement. “Key sectors of the healthcare industry acknowledge what American families and businesses already know – that the status quo is no longer sustainable.”

The accord drew applause from several organizations.

“We commend the White House, Congress and PhRMA for working to lower prescription drug costs for seniors, especially when dealing with the so-called Medicare Part D ‘doughnut-hole’,” National Community Pharmacists Association CEO and EVP Bruce Roberts said in a statement. “Independent community pharmacies across the country are on the front lines keeping our seniors healthy by maximizing the safety and therapeutic value of their medications. We share the goal of lowering drug costs but want to learn more about this program to ensure community pharmacies are treated fairly and can continue serving patients.”

An organization representing the generic drug industry also welcomed the agreement, saying that generic drugs and action to remedy the so-called “doughnut hole” were “a combination that can help Medicare patients remain healthy.”

“Although we have not reviewed the details of this proposal, we welcome the news that PhRMA has proposed action that will reduce costs for seniors who find themselves in the Medicare prescription drug coverage doughnut hole and need to take a brand medicine when a generic is not available,” Generic Pharmaceutical Association president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said.

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