PHARMACY

Bill to clear up state taxation powers gains support from NACDS, business

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A bill aimed at resolving the confusion over state taxation on out-of-state businesses is drawing widespread support from many business groups, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

NACDS has joined a coalition of more than 100 businesses and organizations to support H.R. 5267, the Business Activity Simplification Act of 2008. Those groups have sent a joint letter urging passage of the bill to leaders of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

The law is aimed at curbing an increasingly common practice among some states to tax out-of-state businesses that have minimal contact within their boundaries. The practice—by which businesses can be taxed even for occasionally routing their trucks through a particular state, without either pickup up or dropping off goods—has had a chilling effect on some companies’ expansion plans, according to the coalition.

So, too, has the assertion by some state policymakers that even “the presence of a website server is sufficient for imposing these taxes,” according to NACDS.

“BATSA would ensure fairness, minimize costly litigation for both state governments and taxpayers and create the kind of legally certain and stable business environment that encourages business to make investments, expand interstate commerce and create new jobs,” the letter stated. “At the same time, the bill would ensure that businesses continue to pay business activity taxes to states that provide them with direct benefits and protections.”

Weighing into the issue, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson praised the bill’s authors. ““We applaud Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., for their leadership in clarifying this tax structure,” said Anderson. “This legislation will help foster a better business environment for NACDS member companies and their suppliers across the country.”

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Major drug companies fight stronger restrictions on off-label marketing on drugs

BY Diana Alickaj

WASHINGTON Ten major drug companies have formed a coalition and will submit their arguments to the Food and Drug Administration to push for looser proposed restrictions on off-label marketing, according to published reports.

The 10 companies include Pfizer Inc., Bayer Corp., the U.S. unit of Bayer AG; AstraZenecaPLC; and Johnson & Johnson who will be represented by Daniel Troy a former FDA Chief Counsel and is currently working with APCO Worldwide Inc.

Merck & Co., according to two reports from the Journal of the American Medical Association, was reported to have not effectively marketed the risks of its painkiller, Vioxx, which reportedly served as a risk for heart attack to Alzheimer’s patients. Congressional investigators also have accused Merck and Schering PloughCorp, the makers of Vytorin, a cholesterol drug, of trying to withhold information that questioned the drug’s effectiveness. These two instances are one of many in which Congress is trying to place stronger restrictions on the companies marketing strategies for these drugs.

According to published reports, a poll conducted during an annual conference sponsored by the drug-marketing magazine DTC Perspectives stated that 60 percent of participants felt that Congress might place limits on TV advertising for pharmaceutical companies. Another idea that the drug companies are not in favor of is to place a telephone number in ads, so consumers can call the FDA  to express their problems with a specific drug.

According to published reports, the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Michigan Democrat John Dingell already is taking this issue seriously by calling a hearing on direct-to-consumer advertising. In a statement regarding this issue,  Dingell said, “Drug companies should know that they would be held accountable for inappropriate behavior and inaccurate representations made in their ads.” The hearing is expected to take place in a few weeks.

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Roche acquires Piramed for $160 million

BY Adam Kraemer

ZURICH , Switzerland Roche Holdings said it will buy U.K.-based biotech firm Piramed for $160 million in an attempt to strengthen its oncology and arthritis pipelines.

An additional payment of $15 million is due upon the commencement of Phase II clinical trials for the company’s oncology program, the Swiss company said.

The final transaction value will be adjusted by the net cash balance remaining upon closing. Regulators are expected to approve the deal in the second quarter of 2008.

Piramed focuses on the development of PI3-K inhibitors, which are known to play an important role in halting disease progression and in preventing resistance to chemotherapeutics in cancer cells. Pre-clinical studies have demonstrated their potential importance in treating inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Roche said.

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