Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bills pushing cheaper generic drugs stall in Congress


Legislation aimed at speeding the availability of cheaper generic drugs in the US has stalled in Congress in the face of major lobbying by the drug industry.

The Senate bill would ban most settlements known as "reverse payments," in which a brand-name company pays a generic manufacturer to delay the introduction of the generic drug. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has called on Congress to take action, says such settlements could cost consumers billions of dollars.

An Associated Press review of lobbying reports, from July 1 last year through June 30 found that US$38.8 million was spent by at least a dozen generic and brand-name companies and their trade associations on issues including the Senate legislation.

The lobbying reports do not specify how much of that money was directed at the reverse payment bill, and they are not required by law to do so.

More than half of the money was spent up by the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) which represents brand-name drug companies.

PhRMA spent US$19.5 million in the 12-month period ending June 30 on in-house lobbying expenses, an increase of about US$3 million over the previous 12-month period.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association reported lobbying expenses of around US$420,000 for the first six months of this year. The remaining US$19 million was spent by a variety of drug firms.

"Lobbyists have a lot of influence in Washington," said the bill's sponsor, Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights.

"If we can just get this to a vote, it will be pretty hard for people to vote against it. A vote against this is a vote against consumersm," Kohl said.

Kohl has offered the reverse payment legislation for the past two sessions of Congress.

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