By Bob Weaver

After being bombarded by more lobbyists than fleas on Charley Starcher's old dog, the West Virginia Senate took the steam out of an effort that would have helped West Virginia citizens purchase prescription drugs at a lower price.

After West Virginia was heralded for their significant effort to help reduce drug costs these past two years, what's left is barely a whimper.

The legislation would have allowed the state to negotiate prescription drug price discounts with drug manufacturers using the Federal Supply Schedule as a benchmark.

In a packed committee room, including many drug company representatives wearing "Keep West Virginia Open For Business No Price Controls" buttons, the Senate panel put the bill back to a vague, watered-down version.

The Bush administration has declined to push measures that would help US citizens purchase medication at rates enjoyed by other countries. So much for free trade.

The administration maintains the barriers are being maintained for safety reasons, although studies indicate most of the medication is the same as offered US citizens.

In many cases, medication can be purchased at a fraction of the wholesale cost offered to US drug stores.

The Bush plan to help seniors purchase $600 worth of drugs through Medicare was not widely embraced by WV seniors. Few enlisted in the private program, mostly because of complicated forms and providers that promote diverse and confusing plans.

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