WASHINGTON -- The committee for tattling on pricey drugswill remain part of the health-care reform plan, HillaryRodham Clinton told more than 30 members of the HouseEnergy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Carefully differentiating the biotechnology industry from thepharmaceutical industry, Rep. Lynn Schenk, D-Calif., had toldClinton that the proposed price-watching committee of theNational Health Board "would have a chilling effect on theindustry," and asked the first lady to clarify the pricing issueand let members of Congress know "what consideration wasgiven to motivating R&D."

Clinton acknowledged the life-saving and cost-reducingpotential of biotechnology drugs, and may have been referringto motivation for research when she said that the payment forprescription drugs under the health-care plan "would greatlyenhance the money going to our pharmaceutical drugmanufacturers." But she added, "I don't think anyone can anylonger doubt that we do have a problem with pricing in thiscountry."

The drug pricing committee of the National Health Board,Clinton said, "will publish what it believes to be a fair price fora drug based on its cost of development." She added that theadministration remained open to suggestion on the issue, butthat restraining prices remains a priority.

Bill Bold, an aide to Schenk who attended the hearing, toldBioWorld that Clinton's comments did not worry him. For onething, each member had only had five minutes to queryClinton, and Schenk had not been able to follow up on herquestion. Furthermore, he said, "I'm guessing (the health-carereform plan) is very fluid, and (Clinton) certainly didn't want topigeonhole herself by throwing something on the table."

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.