By Kris Herbst
Contributing Editor

WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration provided a "significant victory" to the biotechnology industry by omitting price controls from the broad authority of the National Health Board that the White House would create under its health care plan, according to a key aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The latest version of the plan calls for a "breakthrough drug committee" of the national board to review prices of new drugs, but gives the panel no authority to set or regulate prices. In addition, the plan would give the Department of Health and Human Services powers to exclude new drugs from Medicare coverage if it cannot negotiate the price down to "reasonable" levels.

"We are certainly very sensitive to the nervousness of the biotechnology companies," said Chris Jennings, Hillary Clinton's congressional liaison. Although the administration discussed alternatives to a price review board, such as formularies for HMOs and hospitals, "the industry has been absolutely and vehemently opposed to doing these things," he said.


"In their discussions with administration members, they insisted that the National Health Board should not have the authority to set or control drug prices - and they won," Jennings added. "That is