As Congress debates a health-care insurance overhaul, the pharmaceutical industry is lobbying heavily for expanded patent protections that its lobbyists say are necessary to protect the industry’s investments and encourage future developments.
The question is how long a period a drug developer will have exclusive rights to a certain kind of drug – called biologics – before competitors can be allowed into the market with generic versions.
Biologics are costly drugs produced from living organisms, not from chemicals as the more common small molecule drugs are composed. Americans spend an estimated $40 billion per year on the drugs, which comprise almost a third of Medicare Part B spending.
PhRMA – the lobbying arm of the industry headed by former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin – wants at least 12 years of protection from competition, saying that’s about what it would take, on average, to recoup the initial research and development investment of getting a drug to the marketplace.
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