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Executive Summary

SEN. PRYOR's "BEST PRICE" OVERSIGHT HEARING is likely to be delayed from the target date in mid-summer as a result of the Senate Aging Committee chairman's heart attack April 16. By the end of the week of April 15-19, the attack was being described as a relatively mild one. The 56-year-old Arkansas Democrat was treated at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He is said to be out of danger and hoping to return home for recuperation the week of April 22. The congressional General Accounting Office is scheduled to report to Pryor's staff by May 1 on pharmaceutical price increases and potential "cost shifting" following implementation of the Medicaid price discount law. A hearing was under consideration for a month or two following receipt of the report ("The Pink Sheet" March 4, p. 19). While Pryor realistically faces a recuperative period of at least several weeks, his agenda is unchanged, with pharmaceutical prices still a top issue. Pryor's staff intends to continue efforts to gather data on pricing issues and work on a potential technical corrections measure while the senator recovers. Pryor recently wrote HHS Secretary Sullivan requesting a study on pharmaceutical pricing versus tax credits for research and development and for locating manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico, and commercialization of products developed with federal assistance ("The Pink Sheet" April 15, p. 9). An oversight hearing on the Medicaid rebate law could have provided a forum for drug companies to point out the practical problems with the "best price" formula and to push again for a percentage discount formula for Medicaid. That suggestion was raised too late in the legislative process in 1990 and was swept aside in the move to Pryor's bill.

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