The debate over the availability of sufficient amounts of Bayer AG's Cipro ciprofloxacin to deal with the terrorist anthrax attacks has seared the issues of access to drugs and generic competition into the minds of virtually every member of Congress. As lawmakers and their staffs line up for Cipro, it is now hard to exaggerate the long-term impact that anthrax will have on American political life - future debates about drug access and pricing will have resonance to every individual lawmaker.

If Bayer (FSE:BAYG, Leverkusen, Germany) and the pharmaceutical industry handle things well - and there's slim precedence for that - Congress could remember that drug companies helped allay the fears of millions of people and potentially saved lives.