Clinton Plan Another Step In Debate That's Critically Important To Seniors And Biotech

(WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 1999) Carl B. Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, issued the following statement in response to President Clinton's proposed changes to Medicare and extension of drug benefits to seniors:

"The debate over Medicare and prescription drug coverage for its beneficiaries is critical to the health of both seniors and the biotechnology industry they count on for new therapies and cures."

"President Clinton's proposal provides a much desired drug benefit to seniors and also appears to acknowledge the need to continue to encourage future biotech drug development for our aging population."

"The president's plan is laudable for its attempt to employ private sector approaches to deliver drug benefits to seniors. It is important that any plan focus on a U.S. strength market competition rather than price controls."

"Before we take a position on the president's plan we'll have to see the details. It remains only an outline, complex and nuanced, blending policy and politics. The Clinton administration says it does not favor drug price controls, but we have yet to find out how market-based competition will be maintained."

"Perhaps more troubling is the failure of the president's proposal to cover medicines for the sickest patients with the highest drug costs. It has capped expenditures without stop-loss coverage. Not to add a backstop for seniors' drug expenses leaves them without protection when they need it most."

"From our discussions with the Clinton administration, it is clear that certain provisions of this proposal are not yet set in concrete, much less granite. It will bear serious study and involvement in the weeks and months ahead."

"Any plan which begins the process of imposing direct, or even indirect, government control over drug prices eventually will slow the pace of medical research. Put simply, price controls reduce incentive for support of biotech drug development among private investors, the primary source of the hundreds of millions of dollars required to take a single drug from the laboratory to a patient's bedside."

"Biotech companies, which target the underlying causes of diseases, have a proven track record in developing breakthrough drugs and vaccines. More than 80 biotech medicines are on the market and more than 300 new drugs and vaccines are in late stage clinical trials. Many of them are designed to treat conditions affecting Medicare beneficiaries, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, age-related cancers, heart disease and stroke."

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) represents more than 850 biotech companies, academic institutions and state biotechnology centers in 47 states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural and environmental biotechnology products.