Prescription Drugs

In 1996, Senate Majority Leader Lott, without a public vote, obliged Senators Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) by attaching a provision to a health insurance bill conference report that extended the patent on the anti-arthritis medication Lodine. If this maneuver had not been publicly revealed at the last moment, it would have enriched the manufacturer, American Home Products, by $80 million to $160 million per year, and fleeced consumers by keeping a cheaper generic drug off the market. During 1995-96, American Home Products gave $155,000 to the Republican Party in soft money.

On September 30, 1999, he Ashcroft Victory Committee received a $50,000 campaign contribution from the Schering-Plough Corp., a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant. What a coincidence. It turns out that former Sen. John Ashcroft chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights, which oversees patent regulations, and was one of just nine senators sponsoring a highly controversial piece of legislation, SB 1172, which would extend patent rights on eight drugs, including the allergy drug Claritin, which is manufactured by none other than Schering-Plough. Claritin is a blockbuster drug that helped the company post a whopping $2.1 billion in profits last year.
If the Claritin patents are allowed to expire as scheduled, in 2002, generic-drug manufacturers could provide competition that would sharply lower prices for consumers.
Were it to become law, SB 1172 would cost consumers and taxpayers roughly $11 billion in higher prescription costs over a 10-year period, according to a study by the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. The study found that extending Schering-Plough's monopoly on Claritin alone would mean an additional $9.64 billion in revenues to the drug company.

For more on the influence and money from the drug industry, see:
Center for Responsive Politics

Pharmaceutical Industry Remains Most Profitable in the Country