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
"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