Meet health-care reform's biggest winner: The Medicines Company 

The health-care bill, according to a drug industry source, will include a provision protecting one name-brand drugmaker from facing competition from generic drugs for an additional four-and-a-half years. This will mean $1 billion dollars in added profit for the drug company, and close to a billion in costs for patients, hospitals, and insurers.

Medicines Company (MDCO) is the drugmaker, and the anticoagulant Angiomax is the drug in question. Under current law, Angiomax's patent protection would end this year, meaning generic -- and thus far cheaper -- versions of the drug would hit the market this year, too. But MDCO has spent $12 million over the past five years lobbying for legislation that would extend the patent protection through to 2014. [I most recently wrote about this in October.]

MDCO's request is extraordinary but not absurd. Angiomax was entitled to an extension on its patent, but MDCO's lawyers filed the paperwork one day late when applying for that extension. Under current law, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was required to reject the application. Since then, the company has turned to Congress for a legislative fix -- retroactively allowing the USPTO to accept unintentionally late filings. Such legislation would apply to exactly one drug: Angiomax.

The lobbying team pushing for this extension has included: former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R); former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D); Gephardt's former chief of staff Steve Elmendorf; former Sen. Dan Coats  (R); Robert Cogorno former floor director for House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D).

Despite this all-star team, Angiomax bills died in 109th and 110th Congresses. But now, my drug-industry source tells me, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has put the Angiomax provision in the bill.

Keeping generic drugs off the market for another 54 months undermines President Obama's stated goal of bringing down health-care costs. 

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Timothy P. Carney

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