Generic drugs are as safe and effective as brand-name drugs at a fraction of the cost. Access to these less-expensive pharmaceuticals would save consumers billions of dollars each year in reduced health care costs. In August 2002, the Senate passed S. 812 "Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act," sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ), which would close loopholes in the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act that have allowed brand-name drug companies to use legal tricks to keep lower-priced generic drugs off the market. Although the Hatch-Waxman Act has succeeded in opening the prescription drug market to generic competition, generics now constitute less than 10 percent of the dollar value of all prescription drugs sold in the United States. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that S.812 would have saved consumers and government programs $60 billion over the next 10 years.
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