Alexander's Ragtime Band

  • by: |
  • 01/23/2014

Yesterday 28 Republican lawmakers from both the House and Senate (led by Senate HELP ranking member Lamar Alexander and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton) sent a letter to the FDA voicing their concern over the agency’s proposed rule that would allow generic drug companies to change the safety information on the labels of their products. Their fear is that “equivalent products could temporarily” end up showing “different safety information” before “the FDA determines if the changes are warranted.”

Dr. Janet Woodcock, the F.D.A.’s head of drug evaluation and research, said the proposed change would create better parity between brand-name drug manufacturers and generic companies, which is especially important given that more than 80 percent of prescriptions in the United States are currently dispensed as generic drugs. “Now, with the generic industry having grown up, most people are taking generic drugs,” she said. “It’s really time to level the playing field.”

But, methinks, the 28 signatories have been pretty heavily lobbied, because there’s another issue here that’s not safety related.

The proposed rule would also pave the way for lawsuits from patients who could now claim that generic companies did not sufficiently warn them of a drug’s dangers. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that such lawsuits were not valid because generic companies were required to use the same label warnings as brand-name manufacturers and thus could not be blamed for failing to warn patients about the risks of taking their drugs.

It’s interesting to note that Senator Alexander has also been front and center in lobbying the FDA on the biosimilar INN issue. He does not believe in differentiation.

Why does his concern about safety and clarity apply only to small molecules? Hm.

For more on this issue, see “Generic Originals.”


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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