FTC Nominee Says He Would Continue Generic Drug Probe
During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday, Timothy Muris, President Bush's nominee to head the Federal Trade Commission, said that if he is approved, he would be likely to continue the FTC's investigation of "anticompetitive behavior in the drug industry," the Wall Street Journal reports. Current FTC Chair Robert Pitofsky has said that drug companies that hold patents on brand-name drugs are "gaming the rules" by making deals with generic drug manufacturers to keep generic products off the market "far longer than the law intended." Muris said that the intent of the current generic drug law is "being violated," the Journal reports (Wigfield, Wall Street Journal, 5/17). However, Muris said he would "defer" to the FDA, which will soon issue new regulations designed to "ensure competition in the drug industry." He added that he would also await an "ongoing" FTC study on the generic industry (Mayer, Washington Post, 5/17). He said that if the FDA's regulatory solution does not work, Congress might have to "change the law to close the loopholes."
The Journal reports that if Muris is confirmed as FTC chair, he could be "force[d]" to recuse himself in agency probes of certain companies for which he once worked as a private consultant. Muris, a George Mason University law professor, has worked as a consultant for Hoechst Marion Roussel, which last month settled a case alleging that the company had delayed market entry of a generic drug that competed with one if its products. Muris has also served as an adviser to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and owns stock in American Home Products Corp. The FTC targeted AHP's Lederle unit in April in a generic drug probe. Commerce Committee members did not ask Muris about his affiliations with drug companies, but Muris told reporters that he would conform to FTC rules on conflicts of interest (Wigfield, Wall Street Journal, 5/17). Committee Chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he hoped the panel could vote on Muris's nomination next week (Washington Post, 5/17). The Journal reports that he "appears headed toward easy confirmation" (Wall Street Journal, 5/17). To read hearing statements from McCain and Muris, go to http://www.senate.gov/~commerce/hearings/hearings.htm.