Provision In Fiscal Cliff Bill Windfall For Amgen

Despite recently pleading guilty in a major Medicare fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest bio-technology company, received a major gift from Congress in its “fiscal cliff” bill—a delay in Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Amgen’s profitable Sensipar pill.

Under the provision, Amgen will be able to continue to sell Sensipar, which is used to treat kidney dialysis patients, for two years without government controls.  Despite being a windfall for Amgen, this provision is expected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over the next two years.

Amgen, not only has a major lobbying force in Congress with 74 lobbyists, but also has deep financial and political relationships with powerful Senators including Mitch McConnell, Max Baucus, and Orrin Hatch, the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee.  Amgen also has sought to forge ties with the Obama administration, showing up more at the White House 12 times since 2009.  Additionally, Amgen employees contributed $141,000 to President Obama’s presidential campaigns.

Amgen was able to obtain this provision despite pleading guilty to illegally marketing its anti-anemia drug, Arenesp only weeks ago.  Its agreement to pay $762 million in criminal and civil penalties for its illegal marketing of Arenesp is a record settlement for a biotechnology company.

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