WASHINGTON -- A Senate hearing today titled "PharmaceuticalMarketplace Reform: Is Competition the Right Prescription?"will finger Genzyme Corp.'s Ceredase and Chiron Corp.'sBetaseron, which is marketed by Berlex Laboratories. However,neither the companies involved nor the Biotechnology IndustryOrganization (BIO) were invited to the hearing.
John Coster, a staffer on the Senate Special Aging Committee,which is holding the hearing, insisted that "the hearing is not ...to talk about any one specific drug or pricing policy, butmarket forces."
"It's one thing not to invite BIO to testify, but it's worse not toinvite Genzyme and Chiron," BIO's president, Carl Feldbaum,told BioWorld. "These companies are being tried in absentia,which I think is unconscionable."
Time constraints forced the committee to keep the witness listto eight, Coster told BioWorld. Half a dozen other groups thatwanted to testify, including manufacturers and associations,also were left out, Coster said, including an association of thegeneric drug industry.
Nonetheless, two pharmaceutical manufacturing associations,the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMA) and theNational Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NAPM),will be represented, respectively, by PMA President GeraldMossinghoff and NAPM Board Chairman Morton Katz, who isvice president of Clay-Park Laboratories. Katz will beaccompanied by NAPM President Robert Milanese.
"Since PMA represents both traditional and biotech companies,we thought it would be unfair not to include them," Coster toldBioWorld. "Amgen is a member, Genentech is a member, andmany big pharmaceutical companies have biotechnologysubsidiaries."
"We don't speak for the PMA and they don't speak for us,"Feldbaum told BioWorld. "BIO speaks for the biotechnologyindustry and they (Pryor and his committee staff) know it."
"We're not members (of PMA)," Lisa Raines, Genzyme's vicepresident for government relations told BioWorld. IncludingPMA and not BIO was a blatantly political act, she said. "PMA isthe only witness that is concerned about drug research, and itis not viewed terribly sympathetically by people in D.C."
The committee did ask for testimony from those who did notmake the witness list, and will include it in the record. BIO andGenzyme have submitted testimony. BioWorld was unable toreach representatives of Berlex Laboratories by press time.
In the past, one witness, Abbey Meyers, the executive directorof the National Organization for Rare Disorders in New Fairfield,Conn., has demonstrated an understanding of the industry'scapital requirements.
Other witnesses include Benji Wyatt of the Pace Alliance,Phillip Lee, assistant secretary for health at the department ofHealth and Human Services (HHS); Helen Smits, associateadministrator of Health Care Financing Administration at HHS;Judith Wagner of the Office of Technology Assessment; andMark Whitener, deputy director of the bureau of competition ofthe Federal Trade Commission.
Despite possible national health-care reform, Coster toldBioWorld that patients would still pick up 20 percent of thecost of drugs. And when universal coverage protectsindividuals from out-of-pocket costs, manufacturers will haveevery incentive to increase prices faster, he said.
-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor
(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.