Boston Globe Washington Bureau Chief Chris Rowland Teams Up with Generic Lobby To Smear Myeloma Survivor From Afar

  • by: Robert Goldberg |
  • 03/20/2018
The generic drug lobby, the Alliance for Affordable medicines, has gotten desperate in recent weeks as the chances for including the CREATES Act into a congressional spending bill fade. 

As almost no one knows, the CREATES Act (short for CREATES Act) is supposed to create generic competition by allowing generic drug companies to sue innovator firms if they don’t hand over samples of their products outside of a strict chain of custody the FDA requires to ensure safe drug use under Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy or REMS. 

There is broad agreement that REMS shouldn’t be used to keep generic drugs off the market.  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has made it easier for generic and brand companies to use the same REMS program to both share samples for testing and for distribution. Gottlieb wants to establish a single shared REMS system.  In facilitating such cooperation, the FDA will “have a stronger basis to issue a waiver that will allow the generic drug makers to go their own way if they have to and develop their own REMS.” 

There is concern that CREATES takes the FDA authority (in fact, it says nothing about the FDA)  to overrule REMS and hands it over to  trial lawyers (who make up what amounts to the R and D budget of most generic firms) and courts.  My partner Peter Pitts explains why REMS reform is necessary but that CREATES only creates more torts, not more competition. (Which might explain in part why CREATES may not be part of the spending bill.)

But instead of debating or addressing these issues, AAM wants to blame one person in particular for CREATES demise: My friend Bob Tufts a myeloma survivor.  AAM is launching a smear campaign against him, claiming via Twitter and to anyone willing to listen, that Bob is taking pharmaceutical money to oppose CREATES.  

Apparently, they have used their connections to the media to support their smear campaign. Yesterday, the Boston Globe’s Washington ‘Bureau’ Chief, Christopher Rowland, took time out from almost everything else that needs coverage to repeat the slurs and assaults that AAM has thrown at Bob and Patients Rising for the past weeks.  In his article,” Everyone wants to kill generic drug loophole — except drug makers and some GOP leaders” Rowland writes:

“The use of myriad groups gives the appearance of a broad-based, grass-roots movement against the bill. An example of the rhetorical strategy came just last week.
“What I worry is that in pursuit of budget cost savings, Congress may jeopardize the safety of life-saving medications patients depend on for treatment,’’ wrote Bob Tufts, a former Major League Baseball pitcher and now a business school professor at Yeshiva University in New York.
His op-ed article appeared in The Hill, an inside-the-Beltway publication. Tufts said he wrote the article after conversations with representatives of the nonprofit group Patients Rising, which discloses direct funding from Amgen, Celgene, Pfizer, and other big drug companies. Tufts, who said he came under attack on Twitter after his article appeared, said he does not receive any money from Patients Rising or industry.”

You might wonder why someone with the awesome responsibility of WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF focused his reporting skills on what amounts to a twitter tussle. Or why, in his attention to detail, Rowland left out that the Twitter attack on Tufts was almost exclusively from AAM.  

Or why Rowland, in taking a cheap shot at Tufts  did not point out that AAM is second to none in seeking to choke off market-based competition or at least defending its members, many of whom are being sued by the Department of Justice for price fixing

Forty-five states and the Department of Justice are claiming that generic-drug prices are fixed and the alleged collusion may have cost U.S. business and consumers more than $1 billion.

In their complaint, prosecutors say that when pharmacies asked drugmakers for their lowest price, the manufacturers would rig the bidding process.
"The companies would work out in advance who would get the lowest price and then the other competitors may put in what we would call a cover bid," says Michael Cole, who heads the antitrust department at the Connecticut attorney general's office. (Such bids give the appearance of competitive bidding.)
Through subpoenas, Cole's team has assembled millions of texts, emails and phone calls between 2012 and 2015. The prosecutors say the records show executives divvying up customers, setting prices and giving the illusion that generic pharmaceuticals were transacted in an open and fair marketplace.

You would think a Washington Bureau chief, especially one that has time on his hands to cover the twitter account of AAM could devote a little time unpacking the irony of a group that proudly proclaims that its members mission is “to make more medicines more accessible to more people who need them” are being sued for doing just the opposite.  

Rowland makes it seem like the CREATES Act will lead to a flood of affordable drugs.  But it turns out that the generic drugs with the biggest price increases over the past 2-3 years are also medicines that have a REMS in place.   What if all CREATES does is transfer the ability to use REMS to restrict competition from companies that make innovative medicines to companies that are being sued for anticompetitive behavior?  Apparently, that narrative has never entered Rowland’s bureau though it sure sounds like the AAM team sure has. 

For someone who is concerned about fake broad-based support, I find it interesting Rowland has been and is silent about AAMs anti-competitive agenda but finds the time to write a piece against the one guy who appears to be driving the generic lobby crazy.

Bob has invited the AAM to meet for coffee to discuss his views.  Instead, the group continues to attack him.  My guess is that no one there has the guts to meet him face to face.  The same probably goes for the Boston Globe Washington bureau chief who happily piled on my courageous friend from afar. 


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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