In 1994 GlaxoSmithKline, at the time Glaxo Wellcome
, received a huge windfall from the United States congess - an estimated $1 billion. This was the result of a supposed typographical error in legislation that extended their patent on Zantac
for an additional 19 months.
The cost of the typographical error was estimated to cost taxpayers approximately $6.2 billion dollars over 17 years. Legislation was proposed to correct the typo - it failed to pass the Republican controlled congress. The pharmaceutical industry spent millions in a successful lobbying effort to keep the unintended windfall. From 1991-1997 the industry gave nearly $20 million to American political candidates and parties.
With the legislation, Glaxo was able to continue selling Zantac at about $180/month to patients. The cost of a generic version would have been $90/month. This prompted the Gray Panthers to award their first annual Green and Greedy award to Glaxo Wellcome.