WASHINGTON _ The Senate Finance Committee has passed anamendment to its version of a health care reform bill that streamlinesthe proposed study of new medical technologies to be conducted by theAgency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). Sen. EdwardKennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Labor and HumanResources Committee, and his staff agreed to the revisions in privatenegotiations with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).Last month, Kennedy's committee voted to replace a provision for abreakthrough drug committee with a proposal for AHCPR to conductstudies of how new and existing medical technologies impact healthcare costs, society and patient outcomes. That compromise wasdesigned to address legislators' concerns about spiraling health carecosts while allaying industry's fears of indirect price controls.On Wednesday, the Labor and Human Resources Committee amendedthe AHCPR provision in accordance with suggestions from BIO. Theamendment refines the terms of the study and "ensures that it will helpremove barriers that impede patient access to life-saving, breakthroughmedical technologies," according to BIO.Specifically, the amended proposal gives more discretion to theadministrator of AHCPR in designing and implementing the medicaltechnology study and calls for a single comprehensive report due inthree years rather than a series of reports over an indeterminate periodof time."We refined the language to make sure it's not a series of studies thatwould be a smokescreen or a placeholder for additional regulatoryhurdles for companies," explained BIO president Carl Feldbaum."We're saying let's do it once, get the methodology down and let's notjust dive in and do one study after another indefinitely. After the pilotstudy is complete, take a step back and see if it can be improved."BIO convened a 28-member Medical Technology Assessment TaskForce last month after its board of directors approved of Kennedy'sproposed AHCPR study but pushed for changes in some of thelanguage. The original AHCPR study idea grew out of Cambridge,Mass.-based Genzyme Corp.'s discussions with Kennedy.After reviewing the proposal in-depth, the BIO task force outlined aseries of suggested revisions to the study. With the revisions, BIO saidit now unequivocally supports the plan.House Ways And Means Deletes Medicare Blacklisting ProvisionActing chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. SamGibbons (D-Fla.), introduced a new point of departure for health carereform in his committee on Monday. The outline document deleted aprovision giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services authorityto exclude an excessively priced drug from coverage if the secretary isunable to negotiate an acceptable rebate amount.

-- Lisa Piercey Washington Editor

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