WASHINGTON _ House majority leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.)received a letter Tuesday signed by 29 of his Democratic colleagueswho want drug price review measures removed from health carereform legislation. Gephardt is leading the effort to meld bills producedby two House committees into a single blueprint for health care reform.Party unity will likely be important to Gephardt as he shepherds hishealth care reform bill through the House, possibly later this month.Since Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose the final bill,winning the support of Democrats is critical. This political climategives significant leverage to individual Democratic representatives."We are writing to focus your attention on the successes and greathopes we have for medical innovation by the biotechnology industry,"the letter states. "As you proceed, we ask that you consider how thisvery fragile, young and dynamic industry will be directly affected byhealth reform legislation."The representatives' letter argues that an Advisory Council onPrescription Drugs contained in the House Education and LaborCommittee bill and the Prescription Drug Payment ReviewCommission in the Ways and Means Committee bill constitute pricecontrols on drugs. In addition, the letter opposes provisions in the twobills that allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to"blacklist" certain drugs from Medicare coverage and to require rebateson certain drugs."These provisions would make it nearly impossible for biotechnologycompanies to obtain the capital essential to continue bringing life- andcost-saving products to market," the letter stated.The following representatives (all Democrats) signed the letter toGephardt: Lynn Schenk (Calif.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Bill Richardson(N.M.), Rick Lehman (Calif.), Rick Boucher (Va.), Frank Pallone(N.J.), Martin Frost (Texas), Dave McCurdy (Okla.), Tim Roemer(Ind.), Tom Manton (N.Y.), Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (Pa.), PeterHoagland (Neb.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), Mike Kopetski (Ore.),Michael Andrews (Texas), Bill Brewster (Okla.), Bob Filner (Calif.),Robert Andrews (N.J.), James Moran (Va.), Collin Peterson (Minn.),Pete Geren (Texas), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Jim Chapman (Texas),Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Tom Lantos (Calif.), Sam Farr (Calif.), CalvinDooley (Calif.), Tim Valentine (N.C.) and Ralph Hall (Ohio). n

-- Lisa Piercey Washington Editor

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