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PhRMA says "Pray for a Miracle" ad shows what's at stake in patent debate

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 24, 2002 -- The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) responded to criticisms of its ad campaign, "Pray for a Miracle," by The Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), telling GPhA: "The ad accurately points out that the legislation you champion would reduce incentives for the discovery of new medicine...generic drugs will offer nothing to those patients whose chances for a cure would decline if that legislation were to pass."

In responding to a September 20 letter from GPhA President Kathleen Jaeger, PhRMA's President Alan F. Holmer wrote, "Your letter criticizes PhRMA's ad for including a photograph of a critically ill child who needs a new cure that can be supplied only by an innovator medicine and never by a generic copy of an older medicine.

"Kathleen, as you know, I am all too familiar with the plight of critically ill children; both of my children have cystic fibrosis...I also know the passion of a parent who prays every day for a cure for his child who suffers from a life-threatening disease. PhRMA's ad makes others aware of what it will take to answer those prayers -- and of how they are less likely to be answered if your industry's bill passes."

"Your industry's legislation would reduce the incentives for pharmaceutical innovation, thereby making future new treatments and cures less likely for a broad range of diseases. I know these facts may be uncomfortable for your industry, but they are true and need to be spoken of openly nonetheless," Holmer wrote.

Holmer points out others who oppose the generic's patent bill, saying, "For instance, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has said that the 'Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act' (GAAP) 'would likely do the opposite of what its title suggests -- by limiting access to cutting-edge drugs, decreasing innovation, and ultimately harming the quality of treatments available to patients.' And as recently as last week, five organizations representing cancer patients stated their opposition to a House version of GAAP, because it 'eliminates legitimate incentives for research'."

Holmer also sought to set the record straight about GPhA's 'constant mischaracterization of patent dispute over Prilosec', saying, "In your letter, you identify Prilosec as an example of a drug on which consumers could save money if a generic copy were available. Remarkably, your letter fails to state that a generic copy of Prilosec is not being marketed today due to the decisions of the generic company -- not because of any barrier under the Hatch-Waxman Act.

"The generic company which received final FDA approval 10-months ago has chosen to wait to go to market until the courts decide the merits of its case, because it is concerned about infringing a valid patent. GAAP would not change that."

Finally, Holmer calls on the generic industry to step up to the plate as the research-based companies long have done by creating their own patient assistance and discount programs to help those who need access to medicines.

Holmer writes, "While we wait for Congress to create a long overdue Medicare prescription drug benefit, PhRMA-member companies are working to make prescription drugs accessible to patients without good insurance coverage. These efforts include patient assistance programs that have given away billions of dollars worth of medicines to millions of low income patients over the last several years, and the discount card programs launched over the last year by many innovator companies."

"We hope that the companies in your industry will copy not just the medicines we invent but also these aspects of the research-based pharmaceutical industry, by launching their own patient assistance and discount card programs. Likewise, we hope that your companies will copy the numerous programs that PhRMA members have launched to supply medicines to less developed countries."

Source: PhRMA

Posted: September 2002