Today’s Pharmalot had a great interview with Jon Liebowitz, the Chairman of the FTC, on the problem of pay-for-delay settlements that prevent consumer access to generic versions of Provigil, Androgel, and Cipro. With more and more consumers telling PAL about their challenges paying for rising costs of prescription drugs, reforms to ban this collusive practice are more important than ever.
Here’s the Pharmalot interview :
In recent months, FTC commish Jon Liebowitz has resembled Don Quixote as he implored Congress to restrict pay-to-delay deals. The FTC views these patent settlements as anti-competitive, arguing they rob consumers of lower-cost meds that might otherwise arrive much sooner in pharmacies. In response, the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include a provision placing limits on such deals, but several Republican senators are voicing opposition (see here and here). Meanwhile, a federal court upheld the legality of the settlements, although one dissenting judge wrote that the practice should be reivewed by the US Supreme Court (back story), a suggestion that Liebowitz hopes will validate his view. We spoke with him about his quest and the odds for success…
Pharmalot: Why have you made pay-for-delay your cause? Liebowitz: We actually have a number of issues that are enormously important at this agency, ranging from predatory lending to privacy to trying to police the high-tech marketplace. There was a major case against Intel, for instance. But yes, this is really important. It’s supposed to be about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. And that’s $3.5 billion in higher costs to consumers. I think that’s pretty meaningful. That’s why the entire commission, not just me, is interested. And that’s goes back to the last commission, which escalated the issue. It’s one of the most corrupt practices in health care.
Pharmalot: Yet, you haven’t had much luck. A recent federal appeals court upheld the practice and Republicans are threatening to block legislation. It seems you’re tilting at windmiYour odds don’t seem so good. Leibowitz: We’ve had a two-pronged approach. One is to get a case to the Supreme Court and that’s the litigation prong. And the other is the legislative prong that would restrict these deals. And it’s pretty modest legislation. What are the chances (either will work)? We’ve made steady progress, although sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. But there was no legislation in 2006 or late 2005 and, on a bipartisan basis, (legislation we want) has passed the House twice. It’s (recently) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support and it’s in the appropriations bill with bipartisan support. So I think our chances are pretty darned good…
To read more about whether Chairman Leibowitz thinks the Supreme Court will take up this issue, or why he sees flaws in industry-backed studies that question the future savings from banning these pay-for-delay settlements, see the rest of the interview on the Pharmalot blog here . . .
To find out more about pay-for-delay settlements, go to the PAL website here.