Pharmaceutical Industry Asks Companies to Protect Patents
The pharmaceutical industry has made a "concerted effort" to lobby large companies to "stay out or drop out" of a coalition that has called for reforms to prescription drug patent laws, the Wall Street Journal reports. Business for Affordable Medicine -- a coalition of 10 governors, several labor leaders and 11 companies such as General Motors Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. -- has asked Congress to close "loopholes" in the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act that allow drug makers to delay the introduction of less expensive generic treatments to the market (McGinley/Hensley, Wall Street Journal, 5/3). In February, the coalition said that reforms to the law could save states $600 million over the next three years on the cost of 17 brand-name prescription drugs with patents set to expire in the next few years (Appleby, USA Today, 2/26). The drug industry, however, has said that reforms to the law would "stifle innovation and hurt research" and has asked companies to withdraw from the coalition. "We think the BAM effort is misguided," Jackie Cottrell, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, adding, "We have been and will continue to very bold in asking BAM members to review issues and reconsider their membership." Some companies, including Marriott International Inc., have withdrawn from the coalition, although "drug industry protests" may not have played a role in their decisions. The pharmaceutical industry also has said that the coalition should "push" for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, rather than patent law reforms, to reduce prescription drug costs. Coalition members have countered that "without drug patent reform, the federal government won't be able to afford a Medicare benefit" (Wall Street Journal, 5/3).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.