Letter from 15 Groups to DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in Support of Essential Inventions' March-In Request for Xalatan

March 25, 2004

The Honorable Tommy Thompson
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington D.C. 20201

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
FAX: 301-404-2700

Dr. Mark Rohrbaugh, Director
Office of Technology Transfer, Office of Intramural Research
National Institutes of Health
6011 Executive Blv., Suite 325
Rockville, MD 20852
FAX: 301-496-9056

Dear Secretary Thompson and Drs. Zerhouni and Rohrbaugh:

We write to request that you exercise the “march-in” provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act to open competition for the supply of latanoprost, a government funded invention currently marketed by Pfizer under the trademark Xalatan®. We further request that you schedule a public hearing so that knowledgeable individuals and groups, including people living with glaucoma, can testify on the impact of Pfizer’s pricing Xalatan in the U.S. as much as six times as high than in Western Europe.

Latanoprost is an important glaucoma treatment that can stave off blindness. Currently, between 2 and 3 million Americans suffer from glaucoma, but at least half do not receive the treatment they need to preserve their sight.

Despite the U.S. government’s financing of the discovery of latanoprost, Pfizer charges U.S. consumers two to six times more for Xalatan than is charged in Canada or Europe. Many retail pharmacies in the U.S. charge over $60 for the same four to six week supply that costs under $10 in Denmark. We find this conduct outrageous. Americans should not have to pay multiples of what Canadians and Europeans pay for a drug invented with U.S. taxpayer funding.

The high cost of medicines like Xalatan is a significant reason for the lack of treatment for many in need. About 21% of those over 45 and living in poverty went uninsured in 2002. At the retail pharmacy price of $64 for a 4-6 week supply, the price of Xalatan can consume up to nine percent of the total income of a single, elderly, individual at the poverty line.

The Bayh-Dole Act provides a remedy – a “march-in” license for all qualified suppliers to allow competition to bring prices down. A petition to use the march-in authority to remedy Pfizer’s discriminatory pricing was filed by Essential Inventions, Inc. in January 2004. We support that application and urge you to use this opportunity to act in the interests of U.S. consumers.

We request that you hold a public hearing on the petition by Essential Inventions, Inc. before your final determination. Such a hearing, in which witnesses can be brought to testify orally or submit written comments, is necessary so that patient groups and others can submit information on the effects of Pfizer’s discriminatory pricing policies on access to medicines in this country. Such evidence is undoubtedly relevant to your determination of whether Pfizer has made a government funded invention “available to the public on reasonable terms”.


Gray Panthers, Washington D.C.
Gray Panthers of California
Families USA, Washington D.C.
Community Catalyst, Boston MA
National Health Law Program
New Jersey Appleseed
Vermont Public Interest Research Group
Women's Health Institute (Massachusetts)
United Senior Action of Indiana
Maine People's Alliance
Joint Public Affairs Committee (JPAC) for Older Adults (New York)
Mississippi Human Services Coalition
Rims Barber, Founder Mississippi Human Services Coalition
American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees
Boston Women’s Health Book Collective