FUMO BLASTS GOP FOR INACTION ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
HARRISBURG, October 3, 2000 – The Republican majority in the state Senate should get serious about finding realistic solutions to the problem of high prescription drug costs, rather than diverting attention from the state’s responsibility to help senior citizens, state Senator Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said today.
In recent public statements, Republicans have suggested waiting for the federal government to act and investigating the amount that pharmaceutical companies spend on advertising. Meanwhile, the state Senate has no plans to pass meaningful legislation to address high drug costs.
Fumo joined fellow Democratic senators today in calling for extending the legislative session this month if necessary to pass a drug-cost bill, and to address other problems facing senior citizens. The legislature is scheduled to recess for the fall elections on Oct. 11.
“We should stay in Harrisburg until we can do something to aid the people burdened by excessive drug costs,” he said.
State Senator Hal Mowery (R-Cumberland) recently said the state should wait to see if the federal government comes up with prescription-cost legislation. Then last week, Sen. Hank Salvatore (R-Philadelphia) and Tim Murphy (R-Allegheny) joined Mowery in citing advertising and promotion costs as factors in rising drug prices. They called for full disclosure of those costs by drug companies, but said nothing about actually providing a way to help people afford to pay for prescriptions.
“While disclosure of advertising costs might be a nice idea, it is hardly the solution to the problem of high prescription costs for senior citizens and others,” Fumo said. “We need action, not some study into the promotional practices of pharmaceutical firms.
“And we certainly can’t afford to wait around hoping we can pass the buck to the federal government.”
The current problem can be traced in part to 1996, when PACENET passed the legislature and was signed into law by the governor.
While Democrats voted for the bill merely because it was better than nothing, they also warned that the PACENET program was not a permanent answer to the problem of rising drug costs. By slightly expanding eligibility, PACENET merely delayed a solution.
In remarks on the floor just prior to passage of the bill, Fumo pointing out that the new system helped a few people temporarily, but he also said:
“In a year or two, maybe a little bit longer, those people are going to be at the upper limit of that. . . . We on this side of the aisle would have gone the little extra distance to solve this problem once and for all and to help those senior citizens forever.”
He noted that with budget surpluses and savings that could have been achieved, the state had the opportunity to institute a cost-of-living-adjustment plan that would have protected seniors from losing their eligibility. He then added in his floor remarks prior to the passage of PACENET:
“I want to say to you that the problem could have been solved with just a little more effort. And that is the sad part.”
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo