WASHINGTON -- The battle over the president's budget isheading into the final rounds, with the House ofRepresentatives voting on the measure today and the Senatevoting Friday.

The biotechnology industry has everything to gain by passageof the bill. "We are urging our members to support itsratification in the House and Senate," Chuck Ludlam, vicepresident for government relations at the BiotechnologyIndustry Organization (BIO), told BioWorld.

"We have no confidence that any bill that might be agreed to inSeptember or October would be better, and we have everybelief that any future bill to replace this would be worse," hesaid.

-- "On the R&D tax credit, we did better than we expected," saidLudlam. The credit will be retroactive to July 1, 1992, and willrun through June 30, 1995. "We were worried that we wouldget the Senate provision, a one-year credit from July 1, 1993."

-- The targeted capital gains provision will provide up to $50million -- "a powerful incentive for investments in smallbiotechnology companies," said Ludlam.

-- The orphan drug credit has been extended from July 1,1992, "although we don't know how far forward it has beenextended," said Ludlam.

-- The bothersome bovine somatotropin (BST) provision, whichas of a few days ago would have banned sales and distributionof the milk booster for a year, was pared down to a three-month ban on sales following FDA approval. Sen. Russ Feingold,D-Wis., the provision's sponsor, "put out a press releaseclaiming victory," Dick Godown, senior vice president of BIO,told BioWorld. "If this is a victory, we hate to see what is adefeat."

-- And the formulary language may have been improved, saidMary Beth Bierut, BIO's director of federal governmentrelations. Cautioning that she hadn't seen the bill, Bierut toldBioWorld her understanding is that compounds for treatmentof life-threatening diseases cannot be placed on formulary.

Moreover, the previous version would have placed drugs onformulary solely on the basis of labeling. "We argued that wastoo narrow on scientific grounds," said Bierut. This basis wasexpanded to include compendia, the official reference books ondrugs and biologics, she believes.

Ludlam said the reconciliation bill had picked up somesupporters in the House. But the situation remains dicey in theSenate, where six Democrats had previously voted againstpassage of the reconciliation bill, creating a tie that VicePresident Al Gore was forced to break. The six Democrats areSam Nunn of Georgia, Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, FrankLautenberg of New Jersey, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, RichardBryan of Nevada and Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Sen. David Boren, D-Okla., who voted for the reconciliation bill,has since defected, and the president needs to lure one of thedefectors back to the fold. The best bets are DeConcini andBryan.

In addition, several Senators, including Bob Kerrey ofMassachusetts, are perched on the fence. But Joe Lieberman ofConnecticut announced Wednesday that he would vote with thepresident.

The Republicans in the Senate, though, are firmly unitedagainst the bill, "a glowing testimonial to the leadershipcapabilities of Bob Dole," whether we like it or not, Ludlam toldBioWorld.

But Ludlam had nothing but praise for the president. "Weobviously had some important victories which would not haveoccurred except for the enthusiasm of President Clinton forhigh-technology industries. If he had not fought for the capitalgains incentive and the substantial R&D credit, they neverwould have been included in the final bill.

"We were in the competition with the working poor, the realestate industry and other powerful groups, and in thatcompetition we did very well," Ludlam said.

"We are enthusiastic about the provisions the presidentsecured on our behalf," Ludlam added, "and grateful for thepriority he gave to our industry on these key issues."

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

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