Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In the News: Biotech Bottleneck

With a name like the Affordable Health Choices Act, you'd think the health-care reform bill that passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this month would have made an effort to provide affordable health choices. But instead, the bill includes a provision that would create a 12-year market exclusivity period for brand-name biologic drugs. This would drive costs to consumers above even current levels, making the title little more than a mockery.

Biologic drugs, medical therapeutics derived through biotechnology techniques, are an important and ever-expanding field of prescription drug innovation... Prices for a single course of a brand-name biologic can soar into the tens of thousands of dollars, and this is not likely to change soon. Big pharmaceutical companies maintain that a lengthy exclusivity period in addition to the patent protection they already receive is necessary to drive continued innovation...

The Obama administration has favored a seven-year exclusivity period, characterized as a "generous compromise"...

There is still time for action. In the House, a pending amendment would offer a similar 12-year exclusion period, but there is an alternative: a bill put forth by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) that would limit the exclusion period to five years. If Congress is serious about health-care reform, it must take another look at whether its legislation truly balances incentives for innovation against the need for price competition.

This is an excerpt from a July 28 editorial in The Washington Post. Read the full article here.

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