The Drug Industry, Health Care and Congress

The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Puppets in Congress” (editorial, Nov. 17):

The fact that statements ghostwritten for lawmakers by drug company lobbyists were not aimed at changing the contents of the House health care bill should provide no comfort to the public.

The pharmaceutical industry had already gotten the additional protections it wanted for biologic drugs added to the legislation months before the vote. It grants brand-name biologics a 12-year marketing monopoly, more than double what conventional drugs receive, even though the industry’s own numbers show that they cost about the same to develop.

Even worse, the bill also includes a loophole that would allow companies to make minor modifications to the drugs just before the protection period ends and receive a new monopoly. This could block price-lowering generic competition indefinitely.

The Obama administration, a bipartisan group in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and most consumer groups opposed extended monopolies for biologics. This raises the question of why they are in the bill. Could it have to do with the more than $110 million pharmaceutical companies spent lobbying Congress so far this year?

Sarah Rimmington
Washington, Nov. 18, 2009

The writer is an attorney with the Access to Medicines Project of Essential Action.