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Eshoo, AMSA, and Me: A Visit to the Senate to Stop Pro-PhRMA Bill

I had the best time last week for Halloween. I went to the Senate on behalf of POP with the medical students from AMSA who first alerted me to the problems in Anna Eshoo’s (D-PhRMA) bill, which would grant monopolies on expensive, lifesaving biologic drugs and keep them from ever becoming generics.

Eshoo’s bill will grant a 12 year monopoly to drug companies on biologic “drugs of the future,” whereas conventional drugs only have 5 years. And because of an “evergreening” provision (which Eshoo denies is included in her bill, but Henry Waxman insists is very much there when he condemned it) that monopoly can be extended by slight tweeks in the drugs.

These drugs are critical for AIDS patients, breast cancer patients, children with cancer and diabetes, and can cost $50,000 to $100,000 or more a year. Even with insurance and a 20% copay, it puts them out of the reach of most people for long — and it spells financial ruin for those who need them for the rest of their lives.

Laura Musselwhite of AMSA organized the event, and she is simply incredible. Listen to her tell the story of the breast cancer patient whose cancer eats through to her skin because she can’t afford Herceptin. Alan Zhou tells of being at dermatology camp with kids who are ostracized and ridiculed for skin diseases that could be treated with biologics, but despite being fully insured their parents still can’t afford them. Their passion for being healers and their pure commitment shines through.

Special thanks to Senator Chris Dodd’s staff, the only Democratic Senator whose staff would meet with them. It meant a lot to the students.

Generic drug makers told Henry Waxman that if Eshoo’s amendment passes, they’ll never manufacture these biologics profitably because the deck will be stacked against them. Which means market protection will keep the price from ever coming down. To these students, that means never being able to treat patients with the tools they need to heal them.

These incredible medical students are passionate about this cause and they are demonstrating around the country to raise awareness about this issue, and they’re asking other medical student to join them.

Please help them spread the word by telling Senators Sherrod Brown, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Susan Collins and David Vitter (yes, that David Vitter) to help them fight to defeat Eshoo and PhRMA.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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