Amgen Steps Ups Lobbying To Reverse Medicare Changes
Amgen recently has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to lobby lawmakers to reverse a rule announced in July by CMS that will limit Medicare coverage for use of anemia medications in cancer patients, the Wall Street Journal reports. The campaign provides "only the latest evidence of [Amgen's] increasing presence in Washington," the Journal reports. In 2006, Amgen doubled spending on lobbying to $10.2 million, and the company spent $9 million on lobbying in the first half of 2007.
In the campaign, Amgen has said that the rule would harm cancer patients. Amgen also has said that the rule will establish a two-tier system in which cancer patients with private health insurance will receive different coverage for anemia medications than Medicare beneficiaries.
As part of the campaign, Amgen launched a Web site that allows cancer patients to submit testimonials and encourages them to write letters to their lawmakers in an effort to "capture the feel of a grass-roots effort," although the company on Friday suspended the site for review, the Journal reports.
According to the Journal, as companies in most cases do not "focus an entire lobbying campaign on a single regulatory rule," the campaign highlights "Amgen's dependence" on the anemia medications Epogen and Aranesp, which accounted for about 48% of the company's revenue last year. The campaign, however, "would appear to be a long shot" because Congress has reversed only one of 41,000 federal rules issued in the last 10 years, the Journal reports.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, said, "How many people don't have a relative who's a cancer patient? The public is much more likely to support legislation that benefits cancer patients than a company like Amgen."
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said that lawmakers should not reverse the rule because such a move would set a precedent under which companies could "spend millions of dollars and hire lobbyists all over town to push Congress to overrule sound science" (Timiraos, Wall Street Journal, 11/13).