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Abbott Labs spent nearly $2 million on lobbying

Wed, 03/10/2010 - 8:18am
The Associated Press

Drug and device maker Abbott Laboratories spent $1.9 million lobbying on health care issues in the fourth quarter of last year, according to a recent disclosure report.

The North Chicago-based company lobbied on the health care overhaul effort that has occupied lawmakers in the House and Senate for over a year.

One provision of the proposal would force medical device makers to pay between $2 billion and $3 billion in fees per year to help pay for expanding health care coverage. While industry executives have complained about the fees, Democratic lawmakers say that device companies will benefit from health care reform as more patients are eligible to get their products.

The company also lobbied on a provision designed to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to approve generic versions of biotech drugs. Unlike traditional chemical drugs, biotech drugs have never faced generic competition because the FDA lacks authority to approve cheaper copies.

The biotech industry, which includes some large drugmakers like Abbott, has argued that its products must be protected for 12-14 years before competing with cheaper copies from generic companies. Executives say that the period is necessary to recoup the costs of developing high-tech biologic medications.

The current versions of the health care bill in the House and Senate give biotech products 12 years of protection.

The future of the health overhaul is unclear following an unexpected Republican victory for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy — costing Democrats the 60th vote needed to quickly move bills through that chamber.

Abbott lobbyists also advocated their position on a bill aimed at updating the U.S. patent system. The pharmaceutical and medical device industries have argued that reform efforts must not weaken patent protections on medical products by reducing infringement penalties. The reform effort has largely stalled in Congress.

The company also lobbied on bills designed to improve the FDA's system for monitoring food safety.

Along with Congress, Abbott lobbied the Department of Agriculture.

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