Thompson to Consider Allowing Generic Version of Cipro
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said on Saturday that he would consider invoking a federal law allowing generic drug makers to bypass Bayer's patent on Cipro, the only drug approved by the FDA to treat inhalation anthrax, the Washington Post reports. The move would allow the generic companies to produce the antibiotic for the government. "We are looking at the patent issue very closely," Thompson said (Vedantam/Chea, Washington Post, 10/20). However, he said that at present "there was no need" to override Bayer's Cipro patent. "We have plenty of Cipro right now," he said (Pear, New York Times, 10/20). Tony Jewell, an HHS spokesperson, said that agency officials "do not believe" that breaking the patent is necessary, adding, "It would not save money to break the patent." Bayer supplies the government with Cipro at a discounted price of $1.83 per tablet. Thompson said Saturday that he has negotiated with Bayer and other drug companies to purchase about 1.2 billion doses of antibiotics to treat 10 million Americans for 60 days in the event of an anthrax outbreak. Federal health officials last Friday said Cipro makes up only about 8% of the pills that the government plans to purchase. The remainder will be generic versions of other antibiotics such as penicillin and doxycycline (Washington Post, 10/20). Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has asked Thompson to override Bayer's patent on Cipro, said that Thompson "wants to negotiate between Bayer and the generic companies, to get an amicable agreement" under which Bayer would allow the companies to manufacture Cipro. Bayer's patent on the drug expires in December 2003 (New York Times, 10/20). The company has "mounted a defense against attempts" to allow the sale of a generic version of Cipro (Washington Post, 10/20).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.