Pubdate: Tue, 15 Oct 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Author: Aaron Sheinin
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Mark Sanford on Sunday criticized Gov. Jim Hodges' administration for 
recruiting a pharmaceutical company to South Carolina and for making it 
easier for doctors to prescribe a powerful narcotic to Medicaid patients.

Sanford, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, said during a debate in 
Florence that both decisions were politically motivated. Hodges countered 
they were good policy moves.

Here is a look at the issues.

. Sanford argued Sunday night the state was wrong to give Pilot 
Therapeutics $10 million in incentives to move its headquarters from North 
Carolina to the Lowcountry. He also said the governor released the news in 
September as a campaign stunt.

Pilot might one day be a success, but it lost more than $2 million last 
year, Sanford said.

Hodges said Pilot is worth the investment because it will develop a 
research center and create opportunities for farmers.

The pharmaceutical company also plans to bring a research and development 
center to the Charleston area and to build a production facility. The 
company is best known for its work creating AIROZIN, which it believes will 
help asthma patients.

The company plans to release AIROZIN later this year.

The state offered nearly $10 million in tax credits to lure the company here.

While the company now employs fewer than 15 people, a company spokesman 
said it hopes to create up to 200 jobs.

The company uses a plant called borage as a key ingredient in AIROZIN. The 
company will need state farmers to grow the plant on 100,000 acres.

But Sanford said Monday the Commerce Department should invest in "proven 
technologies, proven manufacturing."

A spokeswoman for Hodges' campaign said the state will "consider any 
company that is going to bring jobs and new opportunity to South Carolina."

. OxyContin is a powerful narcotic used to relieve pain from the most 
serious illnesses. It is also very expensive, with some single doses 
costing more than $8 a pill.

Sanford believes a "well-heeled political consultant who is a friend" of 
the governor's influenced the decision to make it easier for doctors to 
prescribe the drug to Medicaid patients.

The change by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services cost the 
state thousands, Sanford said.

The consultant, Dwight Drake, represented Purdue Pharma as a lobbyist in 
August 2001. The company sells OxyContin. Drake is no longer listed as a 
lobbyist for the company.

In July 2001, the Health and Human Services department began requiring 
doctors to get prior agency approval before prescribing OxyContin to 
Medicaid patients. Four months later, the department repealed that change.

In September 2001, agency director Bill Prince said Purdue Pharma brought 
"significant political pressure" to take OxyContin off the prior-approval list.

Two months later, Prince said policy reversal was practical, not political. 
"I was not told by anybody to do anything," he said.

In September 2001, Drake said the decision to require prior approval for 
OxyContin was based on saving money, not helping patients.

Drake also said in 2001 he was optimistic the state and the drug company 
could negotiate an agreement. That is all his relationships with Hodges, 
Prince and others would help foster, he said.

Purdue Pharma also hired Republican consultant Richard Quinn to help its cause.

Health and Human Services spokesman Frank Adams said Monday the change had 
nothing to do with political pressure.

While state spending on OxyContin dropped when it was laced on the 
prior-approval list, overall spending on narcotics stayed the same, Adams 
said. Instead of getting agency approval for OxyContin, doctors prescribed 
other narcotics, he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom