[Ip-health] Stat+ - GOP lawmakers lambaste Democratic push to strip patents from drug companies

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Mar 11 19:33:31 PDT 2019


GOP lawmakers lambaste Democratic push to strip patents from drug companies
By LEV FACHER @levfacher
MARCH 7, 2019

WASHINGTON — Republicans redrew their line in the sand on drug-pricing
issues Thursday, with two GOP lawmakers warning forcefully that stripping
monopolies from manufacturers would “radically undermine innovation.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means
health subcommittee, and Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) cast Democratic proposals
as big-government industry takeovers in a letter addressed to the
subcommittee’s top Democrat — even as other Republicans have hinted at
willingness to crack down on monopolies for high-priced drugs.

“We reject any attempt to empower the Federal government to confiscate the
intellectual property of a manufacturer that rejects the ‘best offer’ of
Washington bureaucrats,” Nunes and Brady wrote.

The letter was released in advance of a Thursday hearing on drug pricing
that quickly became a referendum on an increasingly popular Democratic
proposal: a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, and to
effectively strip drug exclusivity from manufacturers that don’t negotiate
in good faith.

The letter was addressed to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas), the Democrat who
sponsored that bill and chairs the Ways and Means health panel. Doggett has
long argued the 2003 provision prohibiting the health secretary from
negotiating prices with manufacturers hamstrings the federal government
from achieving substantial savings.

Doggett’s bill has emerged as a sticking point for Democrats, who broadly
support the concept of Medicare negotiating drug prices but are more split
on using the threat of “compulsory licensing” to force drug makers to the
negotiating table.

So far, 118 House Democrats support Doggett’s bill, which has no Republican
support. A handful of Republicans, meanwhile, have hinted at support for
Medicare negotiation. Only one — Rep. Francis Rooney (Fla.) — has attached
his name to a less aggressive bill that includes no threats to intellectual


But even some Republicans who have signaled a determination to take action
to bring down drug prices  — like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the
chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — remain opposed to Medicare
bidding. Many Republicans, from Trump to health secretary Alex Azar to
members of Congress, have uniformly ignored or opposed proposals like
Doggett’s or a distinct bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that use
intellectual property as a bargaining chip.

One exception: the bipartisan National Governors Association, which last
year endorsed a “compulsory licensing” proposal akin to language in the
Sanders and Doggett bills.


Before Thursday’s hearing, the drug industry trade group PhRMA launched a
new marketing campaign titled “Prescription for Medicare,” arguing that
legislation like Doggett’s would both limit patient access to drugs and
curtail innovation.

Experts supportive of compulsory licensing, however, argue that it would
not curtail access to drugs — and in fact would improve access either by
lowering prices or by allowing generic competitors to manufacturer pricey,
brand-name treatments at a lower cost.

Doggett said in a statement that he was surprised Republicans had rejected
his legislation from the outside, and that his GOP colleagues “do not offer
any alternative to lower the prices that Americans are paying” for
high-priced medications.

“And in view of their objections voiced before today, I have offered an
alternative called competitive licensing,” Doggett said. “What that plan
provides is, if the pharmaceutical company will not negotiate in good
faith, they’re entitled to fair payment for the royalties and the licensing
rights — not the taking of anyone’s property, but the fair payment for
their rights, and then they have a judicial remedy if they don’t think that
fair payment is fair.”

Separately, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation — a think
tank whose board includes executives from corporations including Apple,
Amazon, and Microsoft — held an event Thursday to oppose using “march-in
rights” to lower drug prices.

Democrats have increasingly proposed using the federal government’s
authority to seize patents from drug companies, by effectively encouraging
the National Institutes of Health to reinterpret an intellectual property
law known as Bayh-Dole.

This article has been updated to include additional comments from Rep.
Lloyd Doggett.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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