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News
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Senator seeks generic Cipro
graphic October 16, 2001: 6:27 p.m. ET

N.Y.'s Schumer wants anthrax drug for government use despite patent.
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NEW YORK (CNNmoney) - A U.S. senator called for a generic version of the antibiotic used to treat anthrax to be made available despite the fact German drugmaker Bayer AG still holds the patent for the drug.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he wants generic ciproflaxin to be available immediately for government use, with Bayer holding the exclusive patent rights for its commercial product Cipro.

Schumer, in a press conference Tuesday, said he believes the Federal Government has the authority to order immediate production of generic ciproflaxin to expand the government's stockpile of the drug.

He said he had talked with three generic drug manufacturers -- Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA: Research, Estimates), Par Pharmaceuticals (PRX: Research, Estimates) and Ranbaxy Laboratories -- which he said are ready to begin production and delivery of the drug to the government within 12 weeks.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the nation's drug stockpile, said, "We'll certainly take a look at the senator's proposal, but we don't see the need right now."

"Right now we have enough Cipro and other antibiotics for the contingencies before the American public," said HHS Spokesman Kevin Keane. "If we have an emergency, the manufacturers can turn this around quickly. We have to be careful about patent protections -- there's a balance there."

In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, Bayer committed to supply 200 million Cipro tablets over the next 3 months, or 15 million per week.

That number is roughly triple the normal production schedule, with the company running Cipro factories nonstop seven days a week.

The company said it is also prepared to send shipments seven days a week and pledged to freeze prices at pre-Sept. 11 levels.

Read CNN.com's full coverage of the anthrax investigation

Bayer's Cipro pills cost $4.67 each wholesale and $5.32 for retail buyers. It charges the government a wholesale rate of $1.89 per pill.

Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., said the Centers for Disease Control, which currently has about 2 million vials of Cipro, needs about 10 million and also needs to improve its facilities. (254K WAV or 254K AIFF)

Bayer had been struggling with a weak share price and speculation it would sell its drug business since the costly withdrawal of its Baycol anti-cholesterol treatment.

On Sept. 14, the company said Chief Financial Officer Werner Wenning will become CEO in April to stop speculation it was willing to have a minority interest in a joint venture for the drug unit.

Sergio Traversa, portfolio manager with Merlin Biomed, said the size of the sales of Cipro will be material and will really help the company's drug business, but noted also it is a one-time event. graphic





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