Stop the Senate Sellout
on Generic Drugs

Local 103, I.B.E.W.

For immediate release: August, 2009

Senate Panel, Cooking Up a Banquet For Biotech Fat Cats, Betrays the Public

The following is a statement by IBEW, Local 103, Business Manager, Michael Monahan, on the biotechnology industry's drive to claim an unprecedented 12-year market exclusivity period for its brand-name products.

Twelve years is a longtime – long enough for countless patients to die or suffer needlessly if Congress and the Obama Administration let stand a misguided decision by a Senate committee that voted to extend "patent protection" for brand-name biologic drugs as part of the emerging healthcare overhaul package.

On July 13, under cover of darkness, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted 16 – 7 to extend such a generous helping hand to the drug giants while ignoring the urgent concerns of millions of Americans, both insured and uninsured, who need access to safe, affordable generic versions of biologic drugs.

The little-noticed vote was a shameful cave-in to the manufacturers and corporate lobbyists that always place their expectation of huge profits ahead of the public interest. By rejecting the shorter exclusivity "window" supported by consumer advocates and, until now Committee Chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the Committee effectively sought to create a new category of corporate welfare for a bloated industry that already benefits from numerous federal, state and local government grants, subsidies and tax-breaks.

We agree with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who points out that branded biotech drugs can cost as much as 22 times more than traditional prescription drugs. "Health reform is about protecting the interests of middle-class families, not the windfall profits of big drug companies," he said.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which represents 40 million older Americans, also noted recently that "even the best drug is worthless if a person in need can't afford to take it."

According to AARP, "the biologic drug makers are hiding behind the same arguments used by big pharmaceutical companies 25 years ago when they said big pharma would go out of business if they had to compete with generic drugs – and we all know how that turned out. BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) is going even further this time by asking for a protection deal twice as sweet as big pharma got back then, so the real question is, 'how much more money do they think they can ring out of patients and taxpayers?'"

Its members, the AARP says, "use more prescription drugs than any other part of the population and . . . also suffer from the chronic diseases that can be treated by biologic drugs. We understand better than most that these drugs can be helpful, which is why we support . . . protecting the patents on their drugs from competition for five years – even for many drugs that make back their development costs in less than a year. However, by charging more than $20,000 per year for some of these drugs, biologic drug makers are making their cures too expensive . . . "

The 12-year limit still needs approvals from the full Senate and the House. Local 103 will continue fighting for a shorter exclusivity period.

Stop the Senate Sellout on Generic Drugs!!! Stop Biotech Looting!!! Genzyme = Greed A Message from IBEW Local 103 Mony for Need not Greed | Public Services and Healthcare for ALL!!!