Published on Thursday, March 30, 2000 in the Boston Globe
Joe Kennedy Blasts Biotech 'Fatcats' For Hurting The Poor & Uninsured
by Tara Yaekel
Several days after protesters flooded the streets of the Back Bay during the Bio2000 conference, former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II took up the baton for his own crusade yesterday, urging members of the biotechnology industry to lessen their resistance to his prescription drug plan for the poor and uninsured.

Kennedy, chairman of Citizens Energy Corp., blasted the biotech industry for putting pressure on Governor Paul Cellucci to reject his proposal, which would involve buying prescription drugs in bulk and selling them at reduced rates to people in Massachusetts with little or no insurance.

''I am so bitterly disappointed by ... all the fat cats sitting across the street doing whatever they're doing,'' said Kennedy, speaking on Boylston Street near the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. ''You're supposed to provide prescription drugs to help people, not hurt them.''

Critics have said Kennedy's plan would be the first step toward price controls, which they said would hinder investment for cutting-edge research and development.

Yesterday, representatives of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which is hosting the conference, said that Kennedy had misrepresented them as uncaring toward the nation's most vulnerable people.

''Basically, it's a misstatement of BIO's position on the issue of prescription drugs,'' said spokeswoman Nancy Bradish-Myers. ''I would say that the industry has recognized that some people need improved access. But how you go about it is critically important and cannot be oversimplified.''

Last fall, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, an affiliate of BIO, warned Cellucci that approving the proposal would have a ''chilling'' effect on the biotech industry and block access for many people to innovative drugs. The council's executive director, Janice Bourque, could not be reached for comment.

Kennedy said his plan has to do with bulk purchasing, not price controls, and that it would be an inexpensive option for 1.6 million state residents who have limited or no health care plans.

The Legislature passed a measure in last year's budget asking the governor's staff to put together a proposal for a bulk prescription drug purchasing plan. A Cellucci spokesman, John Birtwell, said that process is ongoing. ''We're trying to put skin and bones onto this very good idea,'' he said.

Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.