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Back To Vidyya Claritin Patent Fight A Hot Political Issue

Cheaper Drugs Vs. Profitable Drug Companies

The "Claritin Patent Extension Act" has become a leading campaign issue for several U.S. Senate candidates in states that border Canada, according to recent findings by the Campaign for Fair Pharmaceutical Competition. The Campaign has been contacted this week by a number of border-state candidates who indicated they will use the legislation as an example of how Congress responds to the pharmaceutical industry's political influence over the interests of consumers.

"Candidates find it incredible that, while they are leading media tours across the border to find affordable medicine, Congress is pushing a bill to help a single drug company boost profits," according to Tracie Onbashian, Director of the Campaign for Fair Pharmaceutical Competition. "It's a no- brainer for candidates."

ABC News reported last week that Senate leaders are allowing drug maker Schering-Plough to insert a special-interest provision in congressional spending bills that will protect its $5 million per day market for the allergy drug Claritin. The provision will cost consumers $11 billion, according to the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy.

The provision will extend the 20-year patents on Claritin and seven other drugs used mostly by seniors, including: Cardiogen 82 (radiologic imaging), Daypro (arthritis), Dermatop (skin ailments), Eulexin (prostate cancer), Nimotop (stroke), Penetrex (urinary tract infection) and Relafen (arthritis). The legislation would prevent competition against the drugs, which experts say would reduce prices by up to 80 percent.

The Campaign has responded to requests from 27 House and Senate candidates for information about the Claritin bill. All of the candidates have made opposition to the bill a primary focus of their campaigns, and indicated they will count a vote for any funding bill with the Claritin provision as a vote against consumers. The issue has especially taken hold in Washington, Montana and Michigan, where pharmaceutical pricing has been a top campaign issue. Senate races in the three border states are closer than those in any other state.

"It's likely that enactment of the Claritin bill will come at a steep price for Senators in the border states," according to Onbashian. The Campaign drew its conclusions from discussions with candidates and preliminary findings from its regional consumer survey on the Claritin bill. All incumbent Senators standing for re-election in the three states are Republicans. "Is it possible that the Claritin bill could tip Republicans out of the Senate," Onbashian wonders. "At this point, I'd say yes."

The Campaign for Fair Pharmaceutical Competition includes the Seniors Coalition, Gray Panthers, Area Agencies on Aging, business and labor organizations, generic pharmaceutical manufacturers, and thousands of consumers. The non-partisan coalition is committed to improving consumer access to affordable pharmaceuticals.


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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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