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A gift to Amgen, with love, from Congress

Tom Jackson • Jan 20, 2013 at 8:41 PM

Sunday's edition of the New York Times has an article about the $500 million taxpayer gift to biotechnology company Amgen, from the company's good friends in the United States Congress.

"Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the 'fiscal cliff' bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs," reporters Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack reported.

The story goes on to explain that a delay in Medicare price controls for the company's kidney dialysis drug, Sensipar, should be worth about $500 million to Amgen. 

It comes at an opportune time for the company: "On Dec. 19, as Congressional negotiations over the fiscal bill reached a frenzy, Amgen pleaded guilty to marketing one of its anti-anemia drugs, Aranesp, illegally. It agreed to pay criminal and civil penalties totaling $762 million, a record settlement for a biotechnology company, according to the Justice Department."

The whole article is well worth reading.

I'm tempted to offer my opinion on all, but for now, I'll hold my tongue. 

Instead, I'm contacting spokesmen for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to ask if they knew about the provision when they voted for the fiscal cliff bill and what they think about it. When they get back to me, I'll get back to you. (According to the Times, the Senate inserted the provisions into the bill.)

The fiscal cliff bill passed about three weeks ago, so kudos to the Times for catching a provision that all of those other "watchdogs" in Washington missed.

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