The head of a consumer group came to Iowa to tell voters there are big differences between two bills in congress aimed at helping senior citizens with the cost of prescription drugs. Ron Pollack is director of “Families USA” and says the group considers the bill in the U-S Senate far superior to one that passed on the floor of the house.Pollack says the Senate bill prevents pharmaceutical companies from barring generic versions of drugs from coming to market. Pollack said at a Des Moiness Moines senior center Wednesday that the senate bill would do away with a common practice by the big drug-makers to stretch out patent protection on popular and lucrative brand-name prescription drugs. They file a new patent, even on something frivolous like the color of the drug, then when a generic maker tries to bring out a low-priced version the big firm sues, and current law automatically grants a 30-month extension that will prevent the generic from coming on the market. Pollack says the senate bill also does one another thing the House bill doesn’t.He says it puts a prescription-drug benefit into the Medicare program, giving bargaining power on behalf of 39-million beneficiaries to make drug companies bring down prices — whereas the house version would give that power to insurance companies, which have less clout and already have said they don’t plan to implement a prescription-drug program for seniors. Pollack also warned seniors not to be confused by paid commercials aired by the big drug companies.
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