This was the day that former surgeon general C. Everett Koop was scheduled to go before Congress and support Schering-Plough Corp.'s push for an extension of its patent on Claritin, the company's best-selling allergy drug. Then, for reasons that aren't clear, his appearance before the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts and intellectual property was canceled.
His absence isn't likely to quell a burgeoning controversy over the good doctor and the support he has given Claritin and another Schering-Plough drug used to treat hepatitis C. Yesterday, Public Citizen and a spokesman for the National Pharmaceutical Alliance, a group of makers of generic drugs, charged that a $1 million grant Schering-Plough gave to the Koop Foundation, Koop's nonprofit group, makes him an unregistered lobbyist for the company.
"A $1 million grant followed by this kind of lobbying activity is a serious conflict of interest," said Sidney W. Wolf, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "It looks like America has a new company doctor."
Representatives of Schering-Plough and Koop replied that there was no quid pro quo between the grant, first disclosed by the Newark Star-Ledger, and Koop's support of the drugs.
"We did not pay him to do that," said Robert Consalvo, a spokesman for the drug firm. He said that Koop has long taken positions coincidentally favorable to the drug company and that the two simply were backing "policies of mutual interest."
"This whole thing has been blown out of proportion," said Mary Beth Zupa, a spokeswoman for Koop. "Dr. Koop does not work on behalf of any pharmaceutical company."
Public Citizen charged that Koop is well wired to the Claritin struggle. On April 29, a day after legislation was introduced in the House extending the company's Claritin patent, Koop wrote a letter of support to House members.
Whatever the outcome, the stakes in the fight are huge. Public Citizen said consumers would have to pay $1.6 billion to $3.2 billion more for Claritin over the next three years if the company's patent is extended. The legislation would block generic drug companies from making copies of the drug and presumably selling it at reduced prices.
. . . Three . . . Two . . . One . . . Lobbyists!
Arianespace Inc., the European space consortium that has launched 45 percent of U.S.-owned satellites, has turned to Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand for help in keeping its launches on schedule.
Fallout from the apparent theft of missile technology by the Chinese has prompted the State Department to threaten to impose special regulations on the export of U.S. satellites. "The bottom line is that it has caused paralysis in the industry," says Verner, Liipfert lobbyist Steven R. Phillips, a former aide to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
Verner has assembled a high-level team to press Arianespace's case with Congress and the State Department. In addition to Phillips, Harry C. McPherson, a former special counsel to President Lyndon B. Johnson; Lawrence E. Levinson, a former Johnson White House lawyer; and Mary Penelope "Nell" Payne, a former Bush White House aide, are working the issue.
They are hoping State will agree that, under the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 1999, it does not have to be so strict with everyone. The act transferred satellite export authority from the Commerce Department to State but exempted satellite exports to NATO and major U.S. allies from the strict controls. To the consternation of the Europeans, State is now saying those controls may be necessary "in furtherance of the security and foreign policy of the United States."
Putting together something as big as the Encyclopaedia Britannica is a complex undertaking. So much so that the encyclopedia publisher is having trouble assembling a board of directors from around the world who would be willing to come to Chicago and spend a couple of days each year helping to manage its affairs.
The problem, according to Tom Panelas, an Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. spokesman, is that a lot of the people the encyclopedia would like to have serve on its board are so rich and well-traveled that staying in the United States even a few more days each year poses a serious tax problem.
So Britannica has turned to Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, a Washington and Atlanta law firm, for help. Sutherland partner Daniel M. Berman, a former specialist in international taxes at the Treasury Department, has registered to lobby for tax relief. What Berman would like to get is a relaxation of Section 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, which sets the standard for how many days a foreigner can spend in the United States before all his or her income is considered taxable by Uncle Sam.
It may take an act of Congress, but then Britannica obviously believes that a better encyclopedia would benefit everyone. Britannica, by the way, is a subsidiary of a Luxembourg-based holding company.
Bill McAllister's e-mail address is email@example.com.