WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee considered several amendments this evening relating to generic biologic drugs. In response to committee votes, Brown issued the following statement:
“Health reform is about lowering costs and improving medical care. Today, we missed a historic opportunity to achieve these goals. The amendment adopted by the committee is not in the best interests of patients or taxpayers -- the big winner here is the drug industry.
“As health reform legislation moves through Congress, I will continue to fight for more competition and cheaper biologic drugs for patients who need them. Drug companies should be able to recoup their research and development costs, but they are not entitled to open-ended monopolies and unlimited windfall profits. The millions of people who depend on biologic drugs, and the millions more stuck paying ever higher insurance premiums, deserve better.”
Biologic drugs, which treat conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis, are expected to make up 50 percent of the pharmaceutical marketplace by 2020, if not sooner. Despite this, there is no approval process for most generic biologics, leading to endless monopolies that can cause high prices and can stifle innovation.
Brown’s amendment, which was endorsed by AARP, would have created an approval process for more affordable, generic biologics while allowing drug makers a generous 7-year period of market exclusivity. The amendment that passed tonight would permit 12 years of market exclusivity, despite the fact that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stated that exclusivity periods longer than 12 years would actually discourage innovation by making the continuous development of new products less important to the profitability of biologics manufacturers.
Biologic drugs cost up to 22 times more than regular prescription drugs. Herceptin, for example, is a common biologic used to treat the more than 192,000 new breast cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. A year of Herceptin treatment costs an average of $48,000. The average median income in Ohio, meanwhile, was $46,597 in 2007.