Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2001 12:28 p.m. EDT

Health Expert Hits Schumer on Cipro Patent Plan

A nationally recognized health expert warned Tuesday that efforts by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and other politicians to nullify patent rights on the anthrax medication Ciprofloxacin could ultimately cost the U.S. a crucial edge in the war on bioterrorism.

"We are not going to win the war against bioterrorism by grinding out more Cipro pills," said Dr. Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York and now a Health Policy Fellow with the Hudson Institute, in an interview with Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly.

"In order to win this war we are going to have to outsmart the terrorists in the laboratory. We will have to develop more effective drugs, more effective medical devices," McCaughey said.

"That's why Chuck Schumer's proposal was so dangerous.

"By removing the patent protection from [Cipro manufacturer] Bayer, what he's really saying is that drug companies and medical device companies [should] work full time deveoping products for an emergency [but] when the emergengy occurs, they won't get paid for them," McCaughey argued.

In 1994, the health policy expert skyrocketed to national prominence when she dissected Hillary Clinton's 1,500-page health care reform in an article for The New Republic. Her analysis provided Republicans with the rhetorical ammunition they needed to defeat the Clinton proposal and ultimately won McCaughey the lieutentant governor's spot.

Turning her sights on Sen. Schumer, McCaughey said his plan to remove patent protection would destroy any incentive for drug companies to continue research on life-saving medications that could mean the difference between victory and defeat in the war on bioterrorism.

"There are marvelous things being developed, including a dialysis machine that would be able to cleanse the blood of toxins so people won't have to be on medication," McCaughey contended.

Scientists are also working on a drug that will destroy all bacteria, she said.

"Our lives will depend on the speed and effectiveness of that research and development," McCaughey warned.