Magazine article Drug Topics

Pricing Not Right-Yet

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pricing Not Right-Yet

Article excerpt

Rx price breaks

for public facilities stalled again

Congress is giving itself a bit more time to decide whether cash-strapped safety net hospitals and other state and local health-care facilities should have access to discounted drugs.

Never implemented, the plan has drawn stiff opposition from the pharmaceutical industry and group purchasing organizations. It also has caused concern at the Department of Veterans Affairs and among chain drugstores.

ASHP, whose members work in public and private institutions, has refrained from taking a stand. The National Association of Public Hospitals & Health Systems and AIDS groups have been working in support of the provision, and so have state and local government associations since the plan covers not just Rxs, but virtually every item the federal government buys.

Late last month, the House and Senate decided that the moratorium they had put in place earlier and which was set to expire in August should be extended. The step was a compromise, because the Senate had voted to repeal expansion of the government's purchasing program, known as the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS). The new deadline is whenever Congress adjourns for the year, probably early fall. Scaling back or scrapping that idea altogether now seems more likely than allowing it to proceed.

The seeds of the dispute date back to 1993. Vice President Gore's National Performance Review suggested that consolidating the federal government's purchasing programs would save money through greater volume discounts and simplified administration. The following year, Congress agreed and with little debate established a cooperative purchasing program that granted state and local governments the right to buy items from the 146 categories of the FSS-the shopping list of markdowns for most government provisions from paper clips and pickup trucks to computers and copiers. …

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