The Associated Press May 3, 2011, 1:16PM ET

Senate resumes debate on SC's $5.8B spending plan

South Carolina Medicaid patients with AIDS, cancer or mental illness will have to use generic drugs if available under a budget measure the Senate agreed to Tuesday.

The measure, adopted on a voice vote, came as the Senate began a rare second week of debate on a $5.8 billion spending plan.

The budget proposal sent to the Senate last month had called for exceptions that made it clear people being treated for AIDS/HIV and mental illness with brand name drugs would continue to get those drugs.

Sen. David Thomas, a Fountain Inn Republican, proposed requiring all Medicaid patients be required to use generic drugs if available. If those drugs don't keep them stable, a physician can switch to a name-brand drug.

Republican senators last week had lost bids last week to restrict access to brand-name prescription drugs. Instead, Senate voted to leave those decisions up to the Department of Health and Human Services. It already has a policy preferring generic drugs and was allowing HIV/AIDS and Medicaid patients to continue using brand name drugs if already prescribed.

Sen. Thomas Alexander tried to kill the Thomas amendment, but that failed with a 14-22 vote.

Tuesday's Senate vote came as the House Ways and Means Committee elected a new chairman, Rep. Brian White.

White, an Anderson Republican, will replace, Rep. Dan Cooper, who is resigning from the House seat he's held since 1990.

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