Legislation would force drug discounts for poor

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Proposed legislation would allow states to require drug companies to offer discounts for low-income Americans, including Medicare beneficiaries who exceed their coverage limits.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is planning to introduce legislation this week that would give states the power to negotiate the same cost breaks they receive for Medicaid beneficiaries. Under the bill, states could pass along savings of as much as 40% off the retail price to those with no drug coverage and those with low incomes.

So far, states have attempted to force drug companies to slash prices to the poor, but the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush administration have challenged these efforts.