Is Kennedy always liberal on health legislation?

Conservatives paint Sen. Ted Kennedy as the ultra-liberal champion of everything, especially health reform. True, he has spent his entire career pushing for the universal coverage. But, he doesn’t always come down on the liberal side of health issues.

For example, the Globe ran a short story Thursday about the push to extend patent protection for biotech drugs. Kennedy supports it; many consumer advocates do not. But, the reality is: the biotech labs and factories in Massachusetts are Kennedy constiuents. And, the state is relying on — and paying –the industry to create jobs.

 Biotech drug makers argue that biologics are too hard to copy and too costly to make.  BIO, the biotech industry trade group, makes the case on its web page.

 The patent system fosters the development of new biotechnology products and discoveries, new uses for old products and employment opportunities for millions of Americans… Patents add value to laboratory discoveries, providing incentives for private sector investment into biotechnology development of new medicines and diagnostics for treatment and monitoring of intractable diseases…

 In other words,  they need stave off the competition for a few more years to recover their investment, ensure quality and cure pediatric AIDS – according to a full page ad that ran in this morning’s Globe.

bio ad0001

 This position puts Kennedy at odds with an unusual group of corporations, insurers and consumer advocates, who support generics. This from the Globe story:

Americans spend more than $60 billion a year on biologic drugs to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other illnesses, at a cost of as much as $200,000 per patient, Ernst & Young estimates. Generic copies of these treatments are needed to help cut costs in the overhaul of the nation’s $2.5 trillion healthcare system, according to Obama…..

“At a time when policy makers are looking to lower health costs so more Americans can afford care, Senator Kennedy and others want to go in the opposite direction by keeping monopoly pricing,’’ said Katie Huffard, executive director of the Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Market, a Washington-based organization of employers, insurers, and consumer groups that have lobbied for generic drugs, in an e-mail yesterday.


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