Lobbyists Battle Over Biologic Drug Protections
"As Congress struggles with a massive health care overhaul, several lobbying powerhouses - including the pharmaceutical industry and the nation's largest advocacy group for retirees - are locked in a contentious fight over the future of biotechnology drugs," USA Today reports in a front page package. "Both sides have spent heavily to sway lawmakers in the debate over how long to keep the expensive drugs exempt from generic competition." The pharmaceutical industry is fighting for 12 years of exclusivity, while President Barack Obama is "pushing for seven years of exclusivity as he looks to trim costs to help pay for his health care plan. ... The pharmaceutical industry counters that a longer period of exclusivity is needed to recover its investments in 'biologic drugs,' which are made from living organisms and used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious diseases."
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has spent "several million" on ads backing 12 years of exclusivity, and the Biotechnology Industry Association has spent another $300,000. Groups backing a much shorter exclusivity period are also lobbying: the AARP "spent nearly $90,000 in May and July to press its case in advertisements targeting selected lawmakers, spokesman James Dau said." And in Congress this month, "a Senate committee approved 12 years of exclusivity. Attention shifts to the House, where a companion, 12-year bill sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., has 139 co-sponsors - compared with 14 lawmakers who back a competing measure that would allow generic competition after five years" (Schouten, 7/29).
"Lawmakers who count pharmaceutical companies among their biggest contributors lead the opposition" to allowing earlier competition, "campaign-finance records show," USA Today reports in a companion article. "Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has helped lead Senate efforts to give drug companies 12 years of exclusive rights to sell biotech drugs. ... Hatch has received nearly $1.3 million from the employees and political action committees of drug and health products companies since 1989, making the industry his largest contributor, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics." In the House, Eshoo, "whose district is home to dozens of biotech companies, is sponsoring a similar measure. Drug company employees and political action committees have donated $645,000 since 1992 to Eshoo. ... Hatch and Eshoo say the donations have no bearing on policy decisions" (Schouten, 7/29).
Recent related story from KHN: Checking In With Patricia Danzon On The Hot Topic Of 'Biologics'This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.