Pickering, Pat Fordice talk Medicare during local stop

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

Third U.S. Congressional District Rep. Chip Pickering and formerfirst lady Pat Fordice visited residents at a Brookhaven drug storeFriday to discuss prescription drugs.

The two Republicans were in town to talk about pendinglegislation in Congress to help people who suffer from rheumatoidarthritis. Pickering also spoke about a controversial billconcerning Medicare prescription drugs.

Fordice told residents she was diagnosed with rheumatoidarthritis three years ago and was fortunate to get a new “miracle”drug called Imbril prescribed to her. The drug quickly brought herarthritis under control and she has used it ever since, shesaid.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I had private insurance that covered me so I didn’t needMedicare,” she said.

Which is fortunate, she said, because Medicare does not coverImbril. A similar drug, Remicade, is covered by Medicare, but notImbril.

Fordice said she is lobbying to get legislation passed thatwould make it easier and quicker for new drugs on the market to getcovered by Medicare, because Imbril is an expensive drug that mostcannot afford. Imbril costs approximately $1,200 per month whileRemicade costs approximately $700 per injection, but many peopleneed more injections of Remicade than with a similar dose ofImbril.

“That hurts,” she said, “because I know what it (Imbril) did forme.”

Another factor that makes it controversial, she said, is thatImbril is self-injected while Remicade is administered by adoctor.

If Medicare would cover Imbril, Fordice said, it would makeeasier for those who suffer arthritis to get treatment. Many findit difficult to get to the doctor, she said.

Pickering said Congress is working on the issue and he “believesin the next session we can get a bill passed.”

A bill currently being looked at would have Medicare cover anyprescription cost after a $3,700 annual ceiling, he said. Therewould be some modification to that figure for annual income andother factors.

Congress has to be careful, however, not to damage prescriptiondrug providers when they pass a bill, he said. They need to pass abill that protects small and community pharmacies while meetingtheir affordability goals.

“We have to reach a balance that’s affordable and equitable,” hesaid.

There are three things the government needs to look at to meettheir goals, he said, citing generic drug reform, medical reformand a prescription drug plan.

Pickering visited Brookhaven Friday while campaigning to keephis congressional seat. Pickering’s district and Dem. Ronnie Showsdistrict were combined during recent redistricting afterMississippi lost a congressional seat following the 2000census.