For Immediate Release: September 23, 2004
For more information, contact: Robert Weissman, 202-387-8030

"The Bush administration has today done another favor for Big Pharma, refusing to take action to lower the price of Latanoprost, an important, overpriced glaucoma drug sold by Pfizer under the brand name Xalatan," said Robert Weissman, general counsel for Essential Inventions, a nonprofit corporation created to distribute affordable public health and other inventions.

Even though the U.S. government helped fund the invention of Latanoprost, Pfizer charges U.S. consumers between two and five times more for the drug than it charges consumers in Canada and Europe, Weissman noted.

Essential Inventions in January petitioned the government to exercise its "march-in" rights under the federal Bayh-Dole Act and authorize generic competition for Latanoprost.

The petition and other related information is available at:

"In our petition, Essential Inventions urged the Bush administration to adopt a simple rule: Prices for U.S. government-funded inventions should be no higher in the United States than in Europe or Canada," Weissman said.

The National Institutes of Health in a decision released today rejected the petition from Essential Inventions.

The NIH decision is at:

"The NIH decision misreads the Bayh-Dole Act," said Weissman. "The Act says the government has authority to march in if government-funded inventions are not 'made available to the public on reasonable terms.' Today's decision completely misinterprets this statutory language, to the benefit of Big Pharma. It mistakenly asserts that a licensee need only put a product on the market, at any price."

For an expert assessment of the meaning of "reasonable terms," see the statement from Duke Law Professor Jerome Reichman, at:

"The Bush administration has today sided with price-gouging Pfizer against people who are going blind," said Weissman.

"We plan to appeal today's wrong-headed decision to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson," said Weissman.