January 15th, 2010
06:59 PM ET
12 years ago

Drug industry lobby threatens to pull health care bill support

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/14/art.uscap.gi.jpg
caption="A powerful interest group is threatening to drop its support for health care reform legislation."]Washington (CNN) - The lead lobbying arm of the drug industry is threatening to pull its support for health care legislation if Democrats reduce protections for brand name biologic drugs.

In an e-mail obtained by CNN, Billy Tauzin, the top executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), told board members that "we could not support the bill" if Democrats reduce the number of years that brand name biologic drugs can keep their patents. Tauzin's email was also a call to action, saying "please activate immediately all of your contacts."

(Read the full e-mail after the jump)

PhRMA fought hard for language that passed both the House and Senate health care bills, stating that patents for brand name biologic drugs are protected for 12 years before generic companies would be permitted to make less expensive versions. Biologics are drugs made from living organisms to prevent and treat diseases like arthritis and diabetes.

At issue now: some Democrats who support the generics industry are trying to use negotiations over a final health care bill to shave off a few years from the 12 year brand exclusivity. The leading Democrat pushing for the change now is House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-California, a defender of generic drugs who lost a battle early on in his own committee to reduce brand name protection to seven years.

President Obama signaled in a private meeting with House Democrats Thursday that he could support reducing 12 year protection for brand name biologics.

According to several Democratic sources, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, a lawmaker with biotech companies in her Silicon Valley district, challenged the president in Thursday's meeting and asked him not to change the 12 year biologics protection.

The sources said the President responded by making clear he disagreed with her, saying "my job is to do what I think is good policy."

That sounded alarm bells at PhRMA, which represents drug companies in Washington, and at Bio (Biotechnology Industry Organization) - the lobbying arm of biologic brand drugs.

"Fair data protection of at least 12 years for new, innovative biologic medicines is critically important to the future of medical progress in America. Fair data protection allows our companies to make the extensive investment necessary to develop cutting-edge medicines that allow American patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives," said PhRMA in an official statement.

Supporters of so-called biogeneric drugs argue 12 years of exclusivity is excessive and will undermine innovation, and deny consumer access to more affordable drugs.

The Obama administration and Democratic leaders struck a deal early on to get the powerful lobby on their side during this debate. PhRMA spent millions in advertising in support of Democrats efforts and agreed that drug companies would contribute $80 billion to help defray the cost to the government of reforming health care.

Democratic sources said they were considering asking drug companies for $10 billion more as they negotiate a final health care bill.

The following e-mail was sent to Board Members from Tauzin:

Mr. Waxman is pushing hard, with the support of the President, to drop our 12-year FOB period down. We are all letting everyone we know hear that we could not support the bill if this happens. Please activate immediately all of your contacts.



Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, released this statement to CNN:

"The brand name drug companies are threatening to block health care reform for millions of Americans unless they receive virtually permanent immunity from generic competition. This is an outrageous demand. The goal of health care reform is to help struggling families not to enrich the drug companies."

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Ken in NC

    I'm only a voter. I wish I had the money to spend that big businesses spend to get what they want from the government. It seems that what we, voters, pay our representatives is no where near as much as big business pays through their Lobbying firms to get the results they want. Sure would be nice if our representatives would represent WE THE PEOPLE instead of THEM THE BIG BUSINESS.

    January 15, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  2. vette gal

    What a bunch of baloney! After the drug maker for Plavix passed the 12 year patent protection and a generic drug for Plavix was made available, that drug company went to court to fight for their patent to stay in place. Because they won, there is no generic drug for Plavix and millions of people have to pay $250 for a prescription for a month's supply. They are no different than highway robbers. It's all about the money for these large corporations and no real genuine concern for the masses. Hope President Obama stands firm on this.

    January 15, 2010 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  3. Objective Thinking

    The fact that drug companies were supporting it IN THE FIRST PLACE tells me all I need to know about this bill–the drug companies stand to gain money from it. That, in turn, means someone else stands to lose money from it. My money is on the middle class losing that money that the drug companies will gain.


    January 15, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  4. mjm

    Wait.....which side is controlled by Big Pharm again?

    Does it actually say that the Obama administration "struck a deal early on to get the powerful lobby on their side during this debate"?
    Deals with the drug company lobbyist?

    I thought Obama was against this kind of politics…..the same Obama that said he’ll put it all on C-Span.

    January 15, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  5. Bad bill

    I guess that Obama isn't holding up his end of the the bribe that got them to support the bad policy in the first place.

    January 15, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  6. Four and The Door

    Who is under Big Pharma's thumb? Who is under big unions thumb? Who is under Big finance's thumb?

    Obama and the Democratic congress. They do not represent the majority of Americans or our interests. They only represent their powerful special interest groups. It is sad to watch.

    January 15, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    What a crock. alzheimer's patients have to pay $6.00 for one dose of aricept and the generic donepezil is 60 cents. Problem is, donepezil cannot be sold in the US.

    January 15, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  8. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    If Big PhARMA is against it, we must be heading in a good direction.
    Biologic drugs are National/International property.IMO. Just because you catch, and maybe even tame the bronco doesn't necessarily mean you have absolute right to keep it and/or profit from it alone.
    BUT this does show what "Big PhARMA" values:
    They allege that they do research to find cures for illness. What this stand shows is that they do research to find PROFITS, and once PROFITS are SECURED, they don't want to lower prices or make cures more readily available, they want to MAKE MORE MONEY, no matter how sick, for how long, how many people are.

    January 15, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  9. independent

    Let's bring Canadian prescription purchases back into play.

    January 15, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  10. Ndubueze Chuku

    Let the idiots pull their support if they want. Let them not forget that in a country of laws. They want to suck Americans dry but I think Americans have had enough. You better join the train or we will surely leave you behind.

    January 15, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  11. obama the liar

    it seems obamas' transparancy (closed door meetings with unions and special interest and lobbyist) is becoming transparent.

    January 15, 2010 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  12. Ben

    Good. Either take a hit in exclusivity, or allow drug inports. Or are the drug companies for rising health costs (hint: they are.).

    January 15, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  13. Annie, Atlanta

    Come on Democrats, grow some spines and let them pull their support. Why should we be paying many times more for drugs than other industrialized nations? My husband was at the pharmacy a couple of months ago. As the pharmacist was packaging up a tube of cream for another customer he said the tube cost $4 and change, but had to charge over $200 for it. This is obscene. Congress needs to stop giving these huge corporations so much power.

    January 15, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  14. Mike

    Kind of a double edged sword isn't it? Let them keep their patents longer and prices stay high longer (not what the Dems promised). Let the patents expire sooner and prices for these drugs go down but the incentive to invest billions in R&D by the major drug companies all but disappears and new drug introductions slow down and people die as a result (again, not what the Dems promised).
    Oh, what to do????????

    January 15, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  15. Ted from Calif.

    Drug companies have already raised their drug prices to more than cover the $80 billion they have offered to contribute so their net contribution is zero. The only thing the drug companies want to do is to protect their bottom line. Americans already pay the drug development and then pay the highest drug prices in the world while the drug companies discount their prices for all other purchasers. These rats are as crooked as Wall Street brokers and big bankers.

    Drug companies have no worries though because their lackeys in Congress will protect them.

    January 15, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  16. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    I can think of no quicker way to either drive pharmaceutical research out of the US or out of business altogether than by making it impossible for the pharmaceutical companies to recover the billions of dollars it costs to develop and test just one new drug.

    Of course, lackwits like Henry Waxman don't understand that.

    January 15, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  17. Jenn, Philadelphia

    And why wouldn't they? The Democrats have already proven they'll buy whatever support they can from whomever they can. First, they paid for the votes of fellow members. Then they bought the support of the unions. The drug companies will get their share too and in the end it will be the American people who have lost.

    January 15, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  18. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    It's all about protecting "the industry" isn't it politicians? I admire our President for wanting to do the right thing, but you sellouts in Congress have ruined our hope of having REAL health care reform buy selling out to "the industry."

    That's OK, I'll just start buying more of my medications from Canada, where the prices are a lot cheaper, and where they have a health care system that works for the PEOPLE, instead of for "the industry."

    You "libertarians" reading this won't object to me exercising my right to have freedom of choice out there in the free market will you?

    January 15, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |