Drugs companies at odds

    The health care reform proposals being considered by Congress have revived an old fight among pharmaceutical companies.

    Drug companies are generally united in the debate over health-care reform. But within the proposals being considered in Congress lies a contentious issue that has torn the drug industry in two. (Photo: Flickr/Don Solo)

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    In one corner of the ring, brand-name drug companies. In the other corner, generics. Their fight centers on how long brand name drugs are protected from competition — 7, versus 12 years. So far, the FDA has nothing on the books for biologics — those complicated therapies that don’t fall under the same patent rules as chemical drugs. Debra Barrett is the Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at Teva, which makes generic drugs out of its North Wales facility.

    Barrett: If you have a large number of years, obviously you’re talking about delaying access to patients for more affordable version. And undermining savings that could be found within the system.

    Brand name companies want 12 years on the market with no competition, which they say they need to recoup the cost of their invention. Mickey Flynn is the president of Pennsylvania Bio, which represents biotech companies that develop brand-name biologics.

    Flynn: By doing it on a shorter time frame you’re going to discourage companies from saying that they will enter into a market with not as many patients, or as many, let’s say, dollar value and therefore they will pass on it.

    Robert Field, a law professor at Drexel University, says there’s a huge amount of money at stake.

    Field: We’re talking here about the drugs that may cost several thousand up to several tens of thousands of dollars a year. So that extra five years is going to mean a huge amount of money to the manufacturer, but also a huge amount of money to whoever has to pay for it.

    Field says somewhere between 7 and 12 years would be a reasonable compromise.

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