Patent protections for biotech drugs part of reform debate

No, it hasn't been one of the marquee issues of the healthcare debate, but for biotech interests, it's a huge one nonetheless. Will makers of costly biotech drugs keep their patents--and high profits--for a dozen years or so, or will biogeneric rivals get permission to compete?

The question has been tossed around for a while on Capitol Hill, to the alarm of the biopharmaceutical lobby, which wants to keep exclusive rights to manufacture these $10,000 to $100,000 per patient per year drugs.

If biotech rivals produced generic equivalents, of course, prices would be likely to fall. Companies making the branded biotech drugs say this would prevent them from recouping their gigantic research and development costs related to bringing the drugs to market.

To make sure no language creeps into healthcare reform that would shorten patent protections for biotech drugs, biopharmaceutical makers have brought out big lobbying guns, including Howard Dean, the former Democratic Party chairman.

However, the battle is far from over. One of the most powerful lobbying interests on the Hill, the hugely influential AARP, favors a shorter monopoly period for biotech drugs, as well as labor groups and employers.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this item in The Boston Globe

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