U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and a handful of his Republican colleagues filed a bill this past week intended to increase access to “life-saving” prescription drugs.

Cassidy, who is a physician, said his “Patient Access to Drugs in Shortage Act” would more accurately match the “artificially low” Medicare reimbursement rates for generic injectable drugs, in order to encourage manufacturers to increase pharmaceutical production.

The bill also has a provision encouraging major manufacturers to stabilize the market when a drug is in short supply. The incentive involves eliminating annual fees for any manufacturers who step in.

“We hear from patients, doctors and hospitals that every day, shortages of cancer chemotherapy medicines and other drugs affect a patient’s treatment,” Cassidy said in the announcement.

“This legislation adjusts how Medicare pays for medicine so as to decrease the risk of a drug shortage.

“It is good for everyone,” he continued. “Patients are more likely to have their life-saving drugs. Medicare saves money by eliminating the need to substitute much more expensive medicines for inexpensive generics. Doctors and hospitals, which currently spend a lot of resources dealing with drug shortages, can focus on better care for patients with less hassle and expense.”

The bill is already being backed by groups like the National Patient Advocate Foundation and the Community Oncology Alliance.

Fleming takes critical lead

Since the Nov. 6 elections, Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, has been the most vocal member of the Louisiana congressional delegation criticizing his own Republican Party leadership.

Fleming has criticized House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and said he is concerned that too many members of his own party will cave on higher taxes for the wealthy now that President Barack Obama has won re-election.

“It is foolish for Republicans to continue opening the door to job-killing tax hikes while Democrats refuse to explain how they propose to reform mandatory spending — mostly entitlements — that makes up almost two-thirds of the federal budget,” Fleming said Thursday.

“I’ve heard enough of Democrats claiming a ‘balanced’ approach. This is more of the same tax-and-spend gamesmanship that has pushed our national debt.”

Democrats are pushing to extend income tax cuts that expire at the end of the year for everyone except for households that take in $250,000 or more a year. Republicans have opposed increasing taxes on anyone.

Vitter holds satellite hours

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is offering opportunities for constituents in the Baton Rouge region to meet with members of his staff at satellite offices starting this week.

The public can meet with staffers to discuss issues and concerns from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the St. Francisville Town Hall, 11936 S. Ferdinand St.

From 11 a.m. to noon, there will be a chance for East Feliciana Parish residents at the Town Hall in Slaughter, 3337 Church St.

Constituents can head to the West Baton Rouge Parish Council Chambers from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Friday at 880 N. Alexander Ave., Port Allen.

From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Vitter staffers will be at the courthouse in Plaquemine. They will be at the second floor parish council chamber in the courthouse, 58050 Meriam St.

Availabilities will be made from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Dec. 10 in the Livingston Parish Governmental Building, 20399 Government Blvd.

The staffers will be in the downstairs conference room.

From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., constituents can go to the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury meeting room, 160 E. Main St., New Roads.

And on Dec. 11, constituents can visit with Vitter staffers from 10 a.m. to noon at the Assumption Parish Library in Napoleonville, 293 Napoleon Ave., in the Genealogy Room.

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., constituents can head to the St. James Parish Council Chamber, 5800 La. 44, Convent.

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com.