Georgia-Pacific, Verizon Leave Business for Affordable Medicine Coalition
The paper company Georgia-Pacific and Verizon Communications have left or reduced their roles in Business for Affordable Medicine -- a "powerful coalition" lobbying for easier access to generic drugs -- after brand-name drug makers threatened to end contracts with the companies, a coalition spokesperson said. The New York Times reports that Georgia-Pacific asked yesterday to not be listed on the coalition's Web site after "receiving pressure" from Eli Lilly, and Verizon left the coalition recently after "being pressed" by Wyeth, coalition spokesperson Brad Cameron said, adding that the brand-name drug makers may have threatened to eliminate multimillion dollar contracts for goods and services with the companies. But representatives from both companies denied being pressured. Georgia-Pacific spokesperson Gregory Guest said his company "decided that it no longer wanted to take such an active role in the political debate" over generic drugs, the Times reports, and Verizon spokesperson Sharon Cohen-Hagar said her company dropped out of the coalition because it did not endorse coalition-supported legislation. Earlier this year, the coalition, which in addition to large companies includes the governors of 12 states and several labor organizations, lobbied the Senate to pass a bill (S 812) that would increase access to generic drugs. The Senate approved the legislation in July and the House is expected to consider similar proposals this fall. According to the Times, Georgia-Pacific was one of the coalition's "more vocal members," testifying before Congress that greater access to generic drugs would help reduce the company's rising prescription drug costs. Eli Lilly and Wyeth officials yesterday denied that their firms had pressured coalition members to quit (Petersen/Abelson, New York Times, 9/4).
As brand-name drugs with sales totaling $82 billion lose patent protection over the next several years, generic drug makers could outperform their brand-name counterparts, according to a new study, Bloomberg/Baltimore Sun reports. The report, completed by researchers at the British consulting firm Datamonitor, found that 42 of the 52 brand-name medicines with more than $1 billion in U.S. sales last year are expected to lose patent protection by 2007. Such drugs include Merck & Co.'s cholesterol treatment Zocor, Pfizer's antidepressant Zoloft and AstraZeneca's ulcer medication Prilosec. The report noted that worldwide the market for generic drugs grew 11% last year, compared to an 8% growth in total drug sales. "The generic companies have gotten much more effective at challenging patents and much more effective at distributing drugs," Datamonitor Senior Pharmaceutical Analyst Neal Hansen said, adding, "There's also a large push, especially in the United States, to switch people to generic drugs as soon as they're available" (Bloomberg/Baltimore Sun, 9/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.