Transcript: Former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 4, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, what if I told you that traveling to Europe for cheaper prescription drugs is a big waste of time? Well, thanks to my next guest, you may be eligible for free or nearly free medicines in the United States and not even know it.

Joining us from Washington is Billy Tauzin, the president, the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, former top congressman as well.

Good to have you, sir.

BILLY TAUZIN, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Hey, Neil. Good to be back.

CAVUTO: Can I ask you a personal question first? I know you had a very tough brush with cancer. How are you feeling? How are you doing?

TAUZIN: I got the all-clear, Neil.

CAVUTO: You go.

TAUZIN: March 29, we did the first CAT scan post all the chemo and radiation and surgery. And we're all clean.

CAVUTO: Oh, good, Congressman. That's good to hear.

TAUZIN: Great news.

CAVUTO: Keep up with those doctor's visits.

TAUZIN: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Let's talk a little bit about this. A lot of Americans, sir, have been complaining about the fact that, you know, I can get cheaper drugs from abroad. What is the pharmaceutical industry doing to counter that?

TAUZIN: Well, start with the notion, Neil, that we don't make ice cream or big hamburgers. We make drugs that are critical to people's lives. And you can't do that without having a social conscience. You got to make sure those drugs reach people, even if they can't afford them.

And we know that, for many people, when they get a prescription for a needed medicine, they can't afford to get it filled. We started a program with a national hot line where anyone who in that situation can call 1-888- 4PPA-NOW, which is a patient prescription program we're running where people can call in. If they qualify as needing assistance, we can tie them in to 150 different programs at our companies to give them free medicine, that is, to fill their prescription for them.

CAVUTO: But, what, do you have to be borderline indigent or what to take advantage of this?

TAUZIN: Well, you have to qualify under each one of the companies' programs. They have all standards by which they qualify. But last year...

CAVUTO: Could you give me an estimate of what that standard is?

TAUZIN: Yes, generally property, generally in the range of upwards of 200 percent of poverty. The range differs company by company.

And we also tie in to over 275 total programs. That includes government and private foundation programs that also help people. So, it's the one national hot line. And we connect you to any one of these support programs. We gave away, for example, 22 million free prescriptions last year through doctors' offices. But now we're going with a national public hot line.

CAVUTO: So, this is part of changing the image.

I know, when you took over the association, one of the things that you were asked is, when those in the association were talking to you about, how do we stop the bad press, you said -- I think I'm paraphrasing -- stop doing bad things.


CAVUTO: Is this part of that?

TAUZIN: Well, yes.

You can't have an industry that has the trust of the American people if it leaves out people who need your product. In this case, as I said, these are products that save lives. You can't say we're making great products, but you can't get them because you can't afford them. You have got to make sure people can get them whether they can afford them or not.

CAVUTO: Do you think, very quickly, sir, in the remaining time we have, that some in your industry have been less than forthcoming when it comes to threats they knew about some drugs -- Merck with Vioxx comes to mind -- and didn't let people know?

TAUZIN: I don't know if that's the case, so much as we didn't have the systems in place to give the warnings early enough. And we're doing that now I think at the federal level. We're building in new systems to pick up those adverse reactions sooner and get them in the public domain to make sure physicians and patients know about them early.

I think we'll do a better job of that as we go forward.

CAVUTO: All right.

TAUZIN: A lot of it is simply the unknown. You don't know what a drug will do until you really test it for years and years on a bigger population base.

CAVUTO: Very true.

Billy Tauzin, thank you very much. Always good having you. Feel well. Keep seeing those doctors.

TAUZIN: Good talking to you. I feel great. I hope you do, too, my friend.

CAVUTO: Bless you. All right. Thank you.

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