PORTLAND (AP) – U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud is pushing for a national version of Maine’s landmark drug discount law.

The 2nd District Democrat unveiled Wednesday what he labeled America Rx, modeled after the Maine Rx statute that was enacted by the Legislature in 2000 but has been tied up in the courts ever since.

Under Michaud’s bill, the federal government would negotiate prescription drug discounts for millions of Americans.

Michaud says the measure is meant to complement, rather than replace, the prescription drug benefit being considered by Congress for the federal Medicare program.

America Rx would require the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to act as a pharmacy benefits manager for an estimated 65 million Americans who lack adequate drug coverage.

Savings could reach 25 percent per prescription and would come at no cost to taxpayers, Michaud said.

Companies that refused to provide discounts would lose federal income tax deductions for marketing and advertising. That’s a departure from Maine Rx, which penalized drug manufacturers by making it more difficult for them to offer their products to Medicaid patients.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which is challenging Maine Rx in the courts, criticized Michaud’s legislation and vowed to oppose it.

“This is not a true negotiation. It is either ‘you give us what we want or we’re going to take away this tax cut,”‘ said Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the trade group.

Michaud has lined up 30 co-sponsors, all Democrats including Maine’s other congressman, Tom Allen. Michaud said he hoped for bipartisan support, noting that Maine Rx, which he co-sponsored in the state Senate, received overwhelming support in the Legislature.

A Supreme Court decision on Maine Rx is pending.

AP-ES-04-10-03 0821EDT

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