Obama Signals Interest In Reducing The Protections For Biologic Drugs
Lobbyists for generic biologic drugmakers are fighting to undercut a provision in the proposed health overhaul that would protect brand-name pharmaceutical companies from lower-cost, generic competition over new products for 12 years, the Associated Press reports. The generic companies have friends in high places: "White House officials and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are trying to reduce the curbs against competition to 10 years or less" (Fram, 1/14).
The move surprised the drug industry Thursday, Politico reports: "Industry took a quiet victory lap earlier this year once it was clear that both bills would include a 12-year window of protection from competition by generics. But Thursday, when California Rep. Anna Eshoo, who supports the longer, industry-backed protections, asked Obama which he prefers, the president said he favors a shorter window" (O'Connor and Frates, 1/15).
The New York Times adds: "Until now it looked like [the] matter was settled because the 12-year period got wide bipartisan support in both chambers. And with Congress having much more prominent issues to grapple with, there seemed little chance this issue would be reopened." The last minute reversal has spawned a lobbying fight that includes ads accusing brand-name producers of getting a "sweetheart deal," and brand-name makers fighting back with phone calls to lawmakers urging them to preserve existing language (Pollack, 1/14).
In addition to the renewed debate over the exclusivity period, "Congressional Democrats finalizing a health overhaul have asked drug companies to contribute an additional $10 billion and possibly more over a decade to help cover the cost," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Pharmaceutical companies have already agreed to contribute $80 billion to the federal overhaul" in the form of discounted drugs for Medicare patients, but these lawmakers have pushed for bigger contributions. The extra $10 billion could come in the form of increased fees to drugmakers, or deeper discounts for Medicare patients (Rockoff, 1/14).