- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

The federal government yesterday reached an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Bayer Corp. to obtain millions of doses of the anthrax-fighting antibiotic Cipro at a steep discount.
The breakthrough came after a final round of negotiations and a public threat by Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to override the German company's patent on the product, the most effective of a handful of drugs approved for use against anthrax.
The agreement will provide the federal government with 100 million tablets of Cipro, the brand name of ciprofloxacin, at 95 cents per pill. The drug costs consumers $4 to $5 per tablet, and the government had been paying $1.77.
"This agreement means that a much larger supply of this important pharmaceutical product will be available if needed," Mr. Thompson said.
Mr. Thompson added that his department is buying "substantial" quantities of antibiotics that fight anthrax, especially doxycycline.
The agreement covers enough Cipro to treat 6 million people for 60 days. Bayer has said that it can produce up to 200 million tablets within 60 days, if needed, to combat a massive outbreak of anthrax.
Yesterday's agreement has options for a second order of 100 million tablets at 85 cents, and a third order at 75 cents, if the federal government needs to replenish its stocks.
"Bayer is fully committed to supplying America in its war on bioterrorism," Bayer Chief Executive Officer Helge Wehmeier said.
Money for the purchase will come from a $1.6 billion appropriation requested by the Bush administration last week that awaits action by Congress, Mr. Thompson said.
Cipro has been the federal government's chief weapon against the anthrax exposures in Washington, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Securing plentiful supplies became a top priority of the Department of Health and Human Services after three deaths from the disease.
Anthrax can be treated through a 60-day regimen of an antibiotic like Cipro, followed by other antibiotics such as penicillin that kill the pathogen.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who has called for importing generic versions of Cipro, welcomed the agreement but said Bayer should ease prices for individuals.
"I hope that Bayer will consider extending the same kind of civic-mindedness to the private consumer," Mr. Schumer said.
The new Cipro supplies will be part of the emergency-standby supplies in the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, which are maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Yesterday's agreement comes on the heels of a deal between Bayer and the Canadian government to supply that country with Cipro.
Bayer promised to supply the drug for $1.30 per pill, ending a threat by Canada to break the company's patent and purchase the pharmaceutical from a generic manufacturer.


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