Mini-monopolies for biodrugmakers = high costs for patients?

But, does it also support innovation?

Generic drugs are one of the great, if imperfect, compromises of health care.  Limits on patents allow companies get a return on their investment — or more– and then others to make cheap but effective copies. Now Congress is considering a plan to give similar treatment to biotech drugs know as “biologics.”  And, industry has put up a fight, with the stock argument that limits wil hurt innovation.

( FYI, the late Ted Kennedy was on their side — the folks in Kendall Square are his contituents. ) 

Jerry Avorn of the Brigham — a voice of reason on the development, promotion and use of pharmaceuticals — offered a compromise last month in the NEJM. His would “balance the need for financial incentives with the need for competition, promoting access and motivating important subsequent innovation.”

Here’s background and an 11/28 update from the reliable Alicia Mundy at the WSJ.

Makers of the complex drugs known as biologics are near a victory in Congress that would slow the development of generic-drug competitors, but supporters of generics are gearing up for a last-ditch fight.

Without support from the White House, which has promoted the creation of generic biologic medicines, the efforts by a few senators and House members on behalf of generics are likely to fail, politicians and analysts say.

Health-care overhaul legislation in both the Senate and House would, for the first time, set up an approval process that allows generic-drug firms to develop copycat versions of biologics. But the legislation would prohibit generic-drug companies from competing with sales of brand-name biotechnology medicines for at least 12 years.

The drugs treat conditions like …such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Drugs that treat anemia brought on by chemotherapy and kidney dialysis cost Medicare about $3 billion last year, even though a generic version of one of them is available in Europe


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