Senators give Big Pharma huge present at taxpayers' expense
Published: 21 January, 2013, 21:32
The bill that averted the fiscal cliff included a largely unnoticed section that granted world’s largest biotechnology firm a two-year delay in regulations of its drugs – even though the firm has just pleaded guilty in a federal fraud case.
The bill, H.R. 8, was passed with a paragraph that lawmakers included to give the biotechnology firm Amgen two years to sell Sensipar without government price regulations. Sensipar, an expensive prescription drug produced by Amgen and used by kidney dialysis patients, is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over the next two-year period, since the legislation delays Medicare price restraints of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) drugs, the New York Times reports.
Section 632 of the bill announces the “two-year delay of implementation of oral-only ESRD-related drugs in the ESRD prospective payment system; monitoring.” Even though the bill does not specify Amgen by name, it mainly affects the sale of Sensipar, costing the government millions while allowing the firm to keep its prices unregulated.
Amgen employs 74 lobbyists in Washington, DC and was the only company to lobby for this delay, Congressional aides told the Times. Most of the delay’s supporters are leaders of the Senate Finance Committee who have benefited from Amgen’s generous political donations. Critics of the measure discovered that Amgen had won a previous two-year delay already and consider the initiatives driven by personal gain.
“That is why we are in the trouble we are in,” Dennis J. Cotter, a health policy researcher, told the Times. “Everybody is carving out their own turf and getting it protected, and we pass the bill on to the taxpayer.”
Legislatives aides who support the delay said it would give providers like Amgen the time they need to determine the details of federal reimbursements for kidney care.