BIO Urges Swift Passage of Medicare Agreement

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 17, 2003)— Carl B. Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to the House-Senate conference agreement on a final Medicare bill:

"This legislation, if enacted, will be a victory for millions of patients who will benefit by having access to innovative and effective biotech medicines.

"When Congress enacted the Medicare program in 1965 without a drug benefit, prescription drugs were a marginal component of health care. But in the almost 40 years since, hundreds of new medicines – including more than 160 biotech products – have joined the nation's pharmacopoeia, extending lives and reducing disability.

"Passage of this new legislation will ensure the nation's seniors and disabled population have access to these medicines – and to the hundreds of additional new biotech products expected to emerge from the genomics revolution.

"In 1999, BIO's leaders developed a set of six core principles for providing Medicare drug coverage while protecting innovative research, and we are pleased that, after more than four years of intense advocacy, all are incorporated into the Medicare prescription drug bill that emerged from conference today.

"We thank the congressional leaders who have listened to our young industry's concerns, as well as those of the patient community, and worked hard to make this bill a reality. We urge the nation's lawmakers to see this historic legislation through to final passage this year.

"In addition to promoting its general Medicare principles, BIO this year has pursued reversal of several new policies affecting reimbursement and limiting patient access to dozens of biotech medicines already covered by Medicare.

"The final Medicare bill, if passed, would restore access to seniors and others by setting reimbursement floors for biotech medicines used in hospital outpatient centers and striking the concept of functional equivalence.

"This victory is the result of a true team effort on the part of BIO, working alongside our state affiliates and the Washington representatives and executives of BIO member companies. We also realize that our work won't be done until this conference agreement passes and is signed into law."

BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.