- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Vice President Al Gore's indignant tale of a prescription drug costing more for his mother-in-law than for his dog came back to bite him yesterday when aides said the story was made up.
Mr. Gore, who told the anecdote in Florida to illustrate the need for his $253 billion drug plan for seniors, fabricated the cost of the drug itself, the comparative doses for his pet and for Tipper's mom, and his family's bills for them.
In fact, Gore aides yesterday could not say whether the candidate's mother-in-law, Margaret Ann Aitcheson, pays for the arthritis medication Lodine out of her own pocket or if the cost is covered by insurance.
A spokesman for Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush said the episode was only the latest example of Mr. Gore's "troubling pattern of embellishing and exaggerating his plans and personal experiences." The vice president has exaggerated his role in the creation of Internet and claimed he and wife Tipper were the inspiration for the Erich Segal novel "Love Story."
"This certainly underscores the fact that the vice president will say anything to get elected," said Bush spokesman Karen Hughes.
A Gore spokesman, Jano Cabrera, responded, "The only one who's inventing facts here are the Bush campaign. The facts are that Miss Aitcheson is prescribed Lodine."
But other details that Mr. Gore presented as facts on Aug. 28 in Tallahassee are clearly wrong.
Mr. Gore said he pays $37.80 per month for Shiloh, his 14-year-old black Labrador retriever, to take Etogesic, the animal version of Lodine. He said his mother-in-law's monthly bill is $108.
At the time, Mr. Gore said of his family's predicament: "That's pretty bad when you have got to pretend to be a dog or a cat to get a price break."
However, Gore aides acknowledged yesterday that those figures are not the actual costs for Mr. Gore's family. They were borrowed instead from a House Democratic study on rising drug prices.
Mr. Cabrera could not say yesterday what the actual costs are for either the dog or Mrs. Aitcheson.
"I'm not sure exactly what levels she takes or Shiloh takes," he said.
And Mr. Gore's example wrongly assumed that both pet and human were taking the same dosage, which veterinarians say would cause serious digestive problems in a dog.
Further, Mr. Gore misused the prices from the Democratic report because they represent the price to wholesalers, not the retail cost of the brand-name drug.
Mr. Cabrera presented that inaccuracy yesterday as a positive for his boss.
"Keep in mind they're paying retail costs, so [the disparity] is going to be only higher," he said.
But asked whether Mr. Gore's mother-in-law has insurance or pays out of pocket, Mr. Cabrera said, "I'll have to look into that."
Another misleading feature of Mr. Gore's story, first reported by the Boston Globe, is that 85 percent of the people who receive the medication take a generic version, rather than the more costly brand-name Lodine. The Florida pharmacist who hosted a campaign event for Mr. Gore last month said most of his customers are too poor to receive the drug prescribed for the vice president's mother-in-law.
"Most of our customers are on Medicaid, and we have to give them the generic," said Wilmoth Baker of Baker's Pharmacy in Tallahassee. "I just took [the anecdote] as political rhetoric."
Lodine costs about four times as much as its generic counterpart. A typical month's supply of the generic version for humans costs about $40, while the brand name costs about $160.
Mr. Gore's basic premise is correct prescription drugs in general do cost more for humans than for pets. But a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PRMA) said yesterday that aspect should not be surprising because federal law requires rigorous human clinical trials before a drug is declared safe for use.
"Common sense would tell you that developing a drug for a person is far more costly than developing it for a dog," said Jackie Cottrell. "This whole comparison is making us a little crazy."
The PRMA said it takes 12 to 15 years and about $500 million on average to develop a safe and effective drug for humans. The Animal Health Institute estimates that the average animal-only drug requires $20 million of research and development.
Mrs. Hughes said Mr. Gore's mistake went beyond the simple mispronunciations by Mr. Bush that the vice president's campaign has delighted in reporting to the media.
"This case is a direct misstatement of fact, which I think is far more serious," she told reporters aboard Mr. Bush's campaign plane.
Mr. Gore's announcement of his prescription drug plan in Florida, one week before Mr. Bush proposed his own plan, is credited with improving Mr. Gore's prospects of winning the state with 25 electoral votes. Florida is home to nearly 3 million seniors.

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