Corporate Coalition Fights High Drug Prices

WASHINGTON - Some of the nation's largest employers including Wal-Mart joined a group of governors on Monday in urging Congress to close loopholes used by big drug companies to delay generics from reaching pharmacy shelves, Newark, New Jersey's Star-Ledger newspaper reports.

The Business for Affordable Medicine, a coalition that includes Wal-Mart, General Motors, Verizon and Georgia-Pacific, alleged that brand-name drug makers exploit provisions in a 1984 law that was designed to speed generics to market. The companies represent hundreds of thousands of employees.

"Corporations are frustrated by the rising costs of prescription drugs, which we either have to absorb or pass along to our employees," said Jody Hunter, an executive with Georgia-Pacific. "Something has to be done to bring certainty to the marketplace."

The call for action was met with immediate opposition from brand-name drug makers, who said they will fight any effort to revise the generic law.

The 1984 law, known as the Hatch-Waxman Act, was designed as a compromise to speed approval of generics, but also renew patent protection for brand-name drugs. This was crucial to drug makers, because valuable time can be lost during clinical testing and regulatory review.

Since 1984, the generic market share has nearly tripled, to 47 percent, according to IMS Health, a market-research firm.
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