Rx DRUG COSTS: Democratic Attack Ad Hypocritical?
The GOP is saying a new Democratic attack ad criticizing Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) for co-sponsoring legislation to extend Schering-Plough's patent for its blockbuster antihistamine Claritin is "misleading and unfair", the Washington Post reports. The ad says that Ashcroft "co-sponsored special legislation for Claritin's New Jersey manufacturer to keep cheaper, generic varieties off the market ... and Claritin's manufacturer gave Ashcroft a $50,000 campaign contribution." The Washington Post reports, however, that Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), who is overseeing the ad campaign as chair of the DSCC, is the chief sponsor of the same bill. Republicans contend there is "obvious hypocrisy" in a "Torricelli-chaired committee financ[ing] attacks on Ashcroft for backing Torricelli's bill." To complicate things even further, Schering-Plough also contributed $50,000 to the DSCC. Torricelli defended himself by saying that he still supports the legislation, as it would "benefit his constituents and pharmaceutical research" but that he did not try to stop the ad, because it is "in the best interest of the Democratic Party." Torricelli said, "The DSCC was not created to represent my personal views ... and this committee belongs more to [Democrats] than to me ... I generally recused myself from the situation." He added, "My first priority is to represent the people of New Jersey, not the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee." This is not the first time Torricelli's connections to the pharmaceutical industry have caused problems. Last year he introduced a patent protection bill one day after Schering-Plough made a $50,000 contribution to the DSCC. Ashcroft will continue to support the bill, saying it would allow Schering-Plough to continue its "lifesaving research" (Babington, 9/22).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.