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GAO prescription-drug study stays in house bill

The House of Representatives early Friday morning passed a bill, 221-208,
part of which requires the General Accounting Office (GAO) to study whether
advertising prescription drugs on television increases the cost of the drugs to

The study was included in the bill, which is the House Republicans' answer to
establishing a Medicare prescription-drug benefit, as part of a compromise
struck between House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.)
and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.).

Thomas wanted to take a stronger approach, but Tauzin asserted his
jurisdiction and the two agreed to the study language.

Senate Democrats, who are in the majority there, have a much different
approach to the general issue. While the outcome of prescription drug reform is
uncertain, there is a possibility that the Senate will pass its bill this
summer, bringing the entire package to a conference between the House and

If lawmakers can arrive at a compromise in conference, the bill could pass
this year, said one House staffer, although it's a long shot.