Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hurry Up, Please. It's Time

While the Catfood Commission is busy finding ways to save the government money, perhaps its members could look into the way pharmaceutical companies have been ripping off consumers, including the federal government. That might provide some impetus in getting legislation passed by Congress ending what a New York Times editorial calls "Pay For Delay".

Legislation that would end a devious tactic used by some pharmaceutical companies to delay the introduction of cheaper generic drugs squeaked by a Senate panel recently. Its prospects for ultimate passage remain cloudy unless Senate Democratic leaders aggressively seize the opportunity to save billions of dollars for the federal budget and hard-pressed consumers.

The underhanded tactic, known as pay for delay, occurs when a generic drug company tries to bring its product to market by challenging the patents on a brand-name drug. Rather than engage in a costly and unpredictable court battle, the brand-name manufacturer sometimes pays the challenger substantial compensation to delay marketing its drug, and the generic company often welcomes the easy, risk-free money.

Sweet deal: both parties to the litigation win, and win big. Who loses, of course, is the consumer. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that such deals cost the public $3.5 billion per year.

The House has already passed legislation which would end the practice of Pay For Delay. The Senate hasn't really done much with it, as the editorial noted. Both proposals would end the practice by creating a presumption that such deals are unlawful, which would require both parties to come up with evidence that the deal is a real one, and not just collusion and price fixing by the industry.

So, what's the hold up in the Senate? The usual one. PHRMA lobbyists have engaged in a frenzy of activity (and presumably campaign donations). Consequently, senators don't seem to have much interest in a bill that would save billions. Apparently the Senate Democratic leadership is still hoarding its precious dry powder reserves.

I guess the incumbents still haven't figured out just why the public is so angry at them. I also guess that the Democrats have decided that we'll vote for them anyway because, hey!, where are we going to go?

What they haven't figured out is that maybe we won't go anywhere. Maybe we'll just stay home, especially on that first Tuesday in November.


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Anonymous paulsa said...

Is Pay for Delay legal?
The only losers in this game are those waiting for cheaper, generic drugs.

6:22 AM  

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