The Medicines Co. has caught a lot of flak lately for lobbying against healthcare reform -- but the company's political agenda has less to do with Medicare Part D than with missed patent deadlines and dog-ate-my-homework excuses.
As Jim Edwards noted yesterday, Medicines Co. and other drug makers have seen their names pop up in the media, including the New York Times and MSNBC, for contributing money to lobbyist Dick Armey. He works with law firm DLA Piper and controls the FreedomWorks group charged with disrupting the town hall meetings on healthcare reform.
As Edwards notes in a second post, some companies (like Bristol-Myers Squibb) have good reason to employ DLA Piper and fight healthcare reform: BMS is one of several drug makers to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in windfall benefits under the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage benefit, which bans Medicare from negotiating drug prices. [UPDATE: BMS clarified that while it does employ DLA Piper, it has no connection with FreedomWorks or Dick Armey.]
Yet Medicines Co. is not among the top names on the windfall benefit list. In fact, the company issued a press release stating:
The Medicines Company has not opposed any of the pending health care reform bills, and has not in any way supported any efforts to disrupt open debate about health care reform. The company's lobbying efforts relate solely to a change in the U.S. patent laws to enable more research, innovation and cost saving in health care.Sounds pretty altruistic--but in fact Medicines Co.'s lobbying efforts stem from the fact that their lawyer missed the deadline for filing a patent extension on the anticoagulant Angiomax (bivalirudin). The drug is expected to generate $425 million to $445 million in revenue this year, but analysts predicted sales would get slashed in half after the patent expires in 2010. The filing, which was only a day late, would have extended that protection until 2014.
The filing faux pas led Rep. William Jenkins to introduce H.R. 5120, known as the "Dog Ate My Homework" act, a bill seeking to allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to accept late filings under certain circumstances. Medicines Co. has spent years -- and millions of dollars -- fighting for various versions of the bill. On its second quarter earnings call, the company said it continues to advocate ever more aggressively for a change in the patent law, and it reserves the right to take action against its legal advisors who filed the patent late.