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Passage Of H.R. 4

Location: Washington, DC

PASSAGE OF H.R. 4 -- (House of Representatives - January 12, 2007)

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I believe we have an obligation to ensure that our Nation's seniors have access to the world-class prescription drugs which have been developed to improve their quality of life and, in some cases, to save those lives. That is why I thought that the previous Congress did a disservice to our Nation's seniors when the flawed prescription drug benefit was created.

I want Medicare part D to work as well as possible for America's seniors, and that is why Congress needs to address the gap of drug coverage that occurs when a senior enters the so-called doughnut hole and does not get financial help.

I want Medicare part D to work as well as traditional Medicare, which does work well. I will soon reintroduce legislation to help those who have experienced the predicament of being stuck in the doughnut hole by increasing the types of expenses that are counted toward their total out-of-pocket costs. This will help seniors get through the doughnut hole.

Now, today, the House passed legislation to give seniors access to affordable medicines. I supported this legislation because I think we need to act to improve the drug benefit and ensure that our Nation's seniors are properly taken care of.

I am pleased that the legislation maintains the prohibition on formularies contained in the original 2003 drug benefit legislation. It seems to me that national formularies, to limit available medicines, would do more to undermine patient health than to lower costs and, therefore, should not be imposed.

I remain concerned that there is no such language concerning price controls. I don't think the government can effectively establish prices. The marketplace is the best place to set prices that will help ensure the continuing pipeline of lifesaving and life-improving drugs. Historically, price controls have proved to be an awkward, clumsy way to allocate goods and services under ordinary circumstances.

But I want to talk for a moment about the great research that is being done at a number of different pharmaceutical companies in my district, in my State and across America. Research and development is the lifeblood of America's economic growth. Let me repeat: research and development is the lifeblood of America's economic growth.

I am proud to be the founder and co-chair with the gentlelady from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert) of the Congressional Research Service and Development Caucus.

Now, every time this House acts, we should make sure that we protect the vibrant, path-breaking research that is occurring in the United States.

Now, there is a reason that we had a debate today on the prescription drug bill. We had the debate and the vote on this because the pharmaceutical research has been extraordinarily effective. Pharmaceutical companies have produced medicines that are not only very good for keeping people alive, improving their lives and reducing suffering, but medicines that were even inconceivable a decade or two ago. These medicines are truly a matter of life and death, and we would not be having this debate, but for the success of the pharmaceutical companies.

I don't want today's debate to leave anyone with the impression that this body wants to demonize the industry and make them stop doing their lifesaving work. None of the drugs we hear about were created overnight. They took years of effort by thousands of talented researchers and scientists. Starting with maybe half a million chemical compounds after years of basic research, a company might end up with, say, 10 safe and effective compounds. The best one, after 8 more years of clinical trials, might receive FDA approval. And then, and only then can they begin to bring this medication to market.

This research is costly, but vitally important. At every step along the process the research might prove to be noneffective, and the process would have to start over again. It is not easy; it is not cheap. These companies spend more money on research and development than any other industry.

I often point out that we in the United States fail to invest sufficiently for research and development in every sector of our economy, with the possible exception of pharmaceuticals.

Let us not punish these companies for their very success and research that will be to the possible benefit of nearly every person in America.

While we must ensure that all Americans get the full benefit of that research, and that is part of what today's legislation was about, it is essential that we do everything in Congress we can to ensure that America maintains its innovative edge and continues to grow as a leader in research and development.

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