Health

Published on February 5th, 2013

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Amgen Gets Help from Congress Despite Record

Two weeks after Amgen pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count of drug misbranding in a $762 million record settlement, it won a major victory on Capitol Hill. According to a New York Times report, the company won a reprieve from price constraints for drugs used by kidney dialysis patients when a provision that was inserted into the fiscal cliff bill delayed price controls by two years. In an editorial, the Times said:

Senators who play a major role in federal health care financing were happy to help Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, evade Medicare cost-cutting controls by delaying price restraints on a class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients, including Sensipar, a drug made by Amgen.  That provision was inserted into the final fiscal bill by Senate aides.  Many members of Congress did not know it was in the bill until just hours before it was approved….  Although other companies will benefit financially from that delay, Amgen, which has 74 lobbyists in Washington, was the only company to lobby aggressively for the provision. The delay will cost the Medicare program up to $500 million over a two-year period.

While Amgen defended the dialysis drug provision, it had little to say about the added $500 million cost to Medicare other than its assertion that the delay on price controls would help ensure that patients would still have access to the important drugs.

The Times noted that Congressional supporters of the delay on price controls had political and financial ties to Amgen.  Apparently, the legislators close to Amgen, the world’s largest biotech company, chose to ignore the company’s criminal record of marketing a drug for unapproved uses that the FDA said put patients at risk.

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