From The New York Times
Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen
the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on
Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the “fiscal
bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored
one of its drugs.
The language buried in Section 632 of the
delays a set of Medicare
price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen
pill used by kidney dialysis
The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to
sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the
company’s chief executive quickly
relayed it to investment analysts
. But it is projected to cost Medicare up
to $500 million over that period.
Amgen, which has a small army of
in the capital, was the only company to argue aggressively for
the delay, according to several Congressional aides of both parties.
Supporters of the delay, primarily leaders of the
Senate Finance Committee who have long benefited from Amgen’s political largess,
said it was necessary to allow regulators to prepare properly for the pricing
But critics, including several Congressional aides who
were stunned to find the measure in the final bill, pointed out that Amgen had
already won a previous two-year delay, and they depicted a second one as an
“That is why we are in the trouble we are in,” said Dennis J.
, a health policy researcher who studies the cost and efficacy of
dialysis drugs. “Everybody is carving out their own turf and getting it
protected, and we pass the bill on to the taxpayer.”