- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Vice President Al Gore's erroneous story about the unfairness of drug costs for pets and humans was based on a series of partisan reports prepared at taxpayers' expense for House Democrats seeking campaign fodder.

The studies were requested by Democratic members of the House Government Reform Committee without the knowledge or participation of majority Republicans on the panel, according to several Republican sources on Capitol Hill.

"This report used taxpayer dollars to produce a totally biased document in order to give Democrats an election year issue," said one Republican. "When a candidate makes statements about prescription drug costs, it is helpful to wave around a report that they say was prepared by the 'House Government Reform Committee.' "

Mr. Gore lifted prices that were quoted in one of the Democratic reports to describe how his family pays three times as much for an arthritis medication for his mother-in-law than for the family dog. Aides subsequently admitted the drug prices did not reflect the actual costs to Mr. Gore's family.

The vice president misappropriated the statistics during his postconvention push Aug. 28 in Florida as he announced plans for a $253 billion prescription drug program for Medicare patients. The state has about 3 million seniors.

Although minority House committee members have the right to prepare such reports, most committee action is conducted with the knowledge of the other party. Several sources said the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, led the effort to produce the studies without input from Republicans.

The committee's minority staff director, Phil Schiliro, said Democratic members requested the reports "because they care about the issue."

"It certainly sensitized people as to the inequities that uninsured seniors face," he said.

Mr. Schiliro could not estimate the cost of preparing the reports, saying the only cost involved was staff time.

The campaign of Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush yesterday said it was time for Mr. Gore to admit he'd made up the details of his story.

"It's appearing increasingly likely that the vice president fabricated information about his mother-in-law and dog to score political points," said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett. "Now that legitimate questions are being raised about his statements, he's hiding behind medical privacy when it was the vice president himself who divulged his family's medical information in the first place."

Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway told Reuters news agency that the campaign stands by the figures quoted by Mr. Gore, but also refused to give out his mother-in-law's private medical information.

Aides to Mr. Gore said although some details were fabricated, his dog does take the animal version of the medication and his mother-in-law does take Lodine, the brand-name for humans.

The Media Research Center, which examines purported cases of liberal media bias, said yesterday that the three major news networks ignored Mr. Gore's concocted story.

"In contrast, all of the networks raked Bush over the coals last week" over an advertisement produced by the Republican National Committee that included the letters "RATS" for a fraction of a second, the center said in a statement.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said drugs for humans generally cost more than for pets because federal law requires rigorous human clinical trials before a drug is declared safe for use.

But Mr. Schiliro said drug makers spend roughly the same percentage of their revenues on research and development for medications for humans as on drugs for pets 17 percent of revenues in the human market and 15 percent of revenues in the pet market.

In a June 1999 letter to Mr. Waxman, the American Veterinary Medical Association said there are several reasons for the disparity in costs between drugs for humans and drugs for pets. For example, the group noted that the veterinary profession does not have a third-party payer system.

"We believe [the comparison] will provide insufficient evidence to develop a compelling argument regarding human drug pricing," wrote the association's top lobbyist, Niall Finnegan.

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