Magazine article Drug Topics

Bill Goes after 'Flo' as Battle for Medicare Rx Benefit Heats Up

Magazine article Drug Topics

Bill Goes after 'Flo' as Battle for Medicare Rx Benefit Heats Up

Article excerpt

Flo doesn't want big government in her medicine cabinet, and Bill Clinton is sick of hearing about it. That's the gist of the simmering media battle over a Medicare prescription drug benefit being waged by the pharmaceutical industry and the President. The White House and Congressional Democrats have been stewing for months about Flo, the grandmother figure starring in the multimillion-dollar TV, radio, and print ad blitz the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others launched against Clinton's Rx proposal. In some ads, the actress says, "All seniors will be forced into a government-run plan." The tag line for the ads, sponsored by Citizens for Better Medicare, is: "I don't want big government in my medicine cabinet!"

At a White House press event on Oct. 25, the President struck back. He blamed the Flo campaign, "filled with flat-out falsehoods," for stymieing Congressional action on an Rx benefit this year. "I wish they'd spend this ad money explaining why seniors have to go to Canada to buy drugs at less than half the price they can buy them here," said Clinton, "when the drugs are made in America with the benefit of the American system and American research and American tax systems. I wish they'd spend their ad money explaining that."

On the dais with the President was Colleen M. Kayden, a pharmacist for 21 years and manager of Williams Apothecary in Lancaster, Pa. "Every pharmacist in America can relate a story about patients who have stretched their medications by taking half the dose, taking a pill every other day or twice a week, or 'only when I really feel bad,"' Kayden recounted. She said objections to an Rx benefit based on cost were off the mark. "This bottom-line mentality in financing prescription coverage for senior citizens is very costly in quality of life for our citizens and in the quality and integrity of our healthcare system," she said. "The real bottom line is that short-sighted financial policies on prescription coverage for senior citizens are costing the system and the general population a fortune in unnecessary hospitalizations, long-term care admissions, and overall health."

Kayden closed by saying, "It is imperative that the pharmaceutical industry Congress, insurers, pharmacists, and physicians all play a role in this issue." Clinton said that Kayden "spoke for every pharmacist and community pharmacy in America."

Citizens for Better Medicare defended Flo's honor. "It's a false debate to argue that it's the White House plan or nothing," said Timothy C. …

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