Magazine article Drug Topics

What Next?

Magazine article Drug Topics

What Next?

Article excerpt


Old priorities put aside as Congress confronts new realities

The political landscape in the capital has changed as much as the Manhattan skyline. All the previous assumptions, predictions, strategies, and tactics came crashing down on Sept. 11. New ones are yet to emerge from the gloom, anger, and uncertainty

The aerial suicide attacks terrorists unleashed on the premier symbols of America's economic and military might, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, compelled President Bush and Congressional Democrats to shelve their partisan wrangling-at least for now. Congressional leaders hope to adjourn by the end of the month (October), leaving scant time to consider domestic issues that once were flash points.

"The new bipartisanship may mean not doing anything [controversial]," said John Coster, vp. of federal/state programs for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Rep. Marion Berry (D, Ark.), the only R.Ph. in Congress, said, "The important issues we're working on won't disappear; Congress will resume consideration of them when the time is appropriate."

Congress will focus on antiterrorism legislation, a military response to the shattering attack on America, and repairing the devastation, its leaders have pledged. Funding bills for all federal agencies also must be passed before recessing until January. "I think they'll just do all this crisis stuff and appropriations and go home," said John Rector, the National Community Pharmacists Association's senior vp. for government affairs and general counsel.

Susan Winckler, the American Pharmaceutical Association's director for policy and legislation, said it's less likely a comprehensive Medicare drug benefit will become law now. "It's more likely there'll be some type of interim, patchwork, do-something [approach] in the appropriations process," Winckler said.

The prescription drug discount card and importing drugs from foreign countries both fit that description. But a federal court derailed the Bush Administration's fast-track plan to have pharmacy benefit management firms offer senior citizens Medicareendorsed drug discount cards. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman last month granted a motion by NCPA and NACDS for a preliminary in junction to halt the program Bush unveiled in July. "There is a strong public interest in any government agency only operating within the authority granted it by law-and they haven't done that," said Friedman. …

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