Drug ad amendment may be put on hold

Jul 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In at least a temporary retreat, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said last week she is undecided as to whether to attempt to amend pending prescription medicine legislation with a measure to discourage drug advertising.
A top aide told Electronic Media earlier this month that the lawmaker would offer the amendment.
But at a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Stabenow said concerns had been raised that drug industry allies in the House could kill underlying prescription drug reform legislation on procedural grounds if the amendment were attached.
“We’re still determining whether we’ll bring the advertising bill up at this point,” she said.
At a meeting with advertising and media industry trade association executives on Tuesday, sources said Sen. Stabenow said she would bring up her amendment on the Senate floor, at the very least to publicize it and debate the issues. But the sources said Sen. Stabenow wasn’t sure whether she would drive it to a vote.
“Whether it gets voted may rely on her assessment of the vote count,” said Dan Jaffe, executive VP of the Association of National Advertisers, who attended the lobbying session with the senator.
One possible route for the lawmaker, according to her spokes-man, would be to bring up the measure to trigger a debate and then withdraw it before a vote.
Mr. Jaffe said that even if the amendment isn’t brought to a vote now, the issue is unlikely to go away any time soon. “She’s concerned about the procedural way it’s coming up, not with the issue,” he said. “It’s just a question where she thinks is the best way to do it.”
Sen. Stabenow made her comments at a press conference held to promote a study contending that pharmaceutical companies spent almost 2 1/2 times as much on marketing, advertising and administration as they did on research and development last year.
Under Sen. Stabenow’s measure, pharmaceutical companies would be barred from deducting advertising and marketing costs that exceed their annual outlays for research and development.
A similar measure has been introduced in the House by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. Earlier this month, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced legislation that would eliminate the tax deduction for prescription drug ads altogether.
Sen. Stabenow’s procedural concern is that House critics of prescription drug legislation could argue that her proposal is really a tax bill. Under the Constitution, tax bills are supposed to originate in the House.