Dean Gathers Support from Governors in Drug Lawsuit

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(Host) The National Governors’ Association is supporting new pharmaceutical drug laws in Vermont and Michigan that are designed to help control Medicaid budgets. The NGA resolution strongly criticizes the nation’s drug companies for filing a lawsuit to overturn the new laws.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Governor Howard Dean says he’s very pleased that a bipartisan group of governors from every region in the country have joined together to fight the pharmaceutical drug industry on this issue.

PHARMA, the trade organization of the drug companies, is trying to block new laws in Vermont and 11 other states that set up a process for doctors to use when prescribing drugs for Medicaid patients. The law requires physicians to consider the effectiveness of less expensive generic drugs and discounted brand name products on a preferred list before prescribing more expensive brand name drugs.

The drug industry claims in its lawsuit that this process is unfair to patients who should have direct access to the more expensive drugs without any restrictions. Dean, speaking from his car phone in Iowa, says the NGA resolution is an important development in the fight against the drug companies and the governor says Vermont has a lot at stake in the outcome of this lawsuit:

(Dean) “If this suit wins, we might have to cancel pharmacy benefits for everybody. It would be unspeakably expensive. The pharmaceutical industry is just behaving more and more like the tobacco companies. They really don’t care about the people in these programs. All they worry about is their bottom line and this lawsuit is just another indication of that.”

(Kinzel) In a related prescription drug story, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group on Wednesday released a national report that shows that the nation’s drug companies spend twice as much money on advertising and marketing as they do on research and development of new drugs. VPIRG Health Care Director Zina Cary thinks the findings are very important:

(Cary) “The greatest ruse of the 21st century so far is that drug companies are pleading poverty. If you go after them on the prices of their drugs and it’s just not true and I think that this report proves that because the numbers are there.”

(Kinzel) The report was complied using information filed by the drug companies with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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