Stalled bill hits research on drug alternatives

Drug price negotiation bill that stalled in Senate contains measure to study drug effectiveness versus other therapies.

By Aaron Smith, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- A stalled drug price bill could stymie efforts to find non-drug treatments for illness, said former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan.

The bill's main focus is to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies on drug prices. Its failure to clear the Republican-controlled Senate is widely seen as a boon to Big Pharma, which could suffer reduced revenues with the bill's passage.

But the bill contains a separate measure, to establish studies that would compare drug effectiveness to other therapies, said McClellan, who spoke at a panel on Friday organized by Goldman Sachs. As an example, he said this measure could be used to compare the effectiveness of drugs versus stents for angina patients.

"We need to do a better job of determining what works in medical practice," said McClellan.

But McClellan said there is still hope for the measure to pass this year - if it's folded into a different bill that has bipartisan approval.

The panelists spoke to reporters in New York on Friday and included representatives from the drug giant Wyeth (down $0.32 to $55.51, Charts, Fortune 500) and United BioSource, which designs clinical trials for drug companies.

The U.S. drug industry has been in focus this week as leading drug companies including Johnson & Johnson (down $0.38 to $64.74, Charts, Fortune 500), Pfizer (down $0.64 to $26.33, Charts, Fortune 500), Merck (up $0.25 to $51.74, Charts, Fortune 500), Abbott Laboratories (Charts, Fortune 500) and Wyeth all reported quarterly results. Top of page