Congress aims to give some drugmakers a break

Dan Gorenstein Oct 2, 2015
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Congress aims to give some drugmakers a break

Dan Gorenstein Oct 2, 2015
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There’s a lot of talk these days about drug prices, namely, how to keep them under control.

While many, including presidential candidates, rattle their sabers over drugmaker earnings, there’s a bipartisan bill moving through the Senate that would likely boost companies’ profits.

Companies like drugmaker Eisai, the maker of an epilepsy medication. When it won FDA approval, it also got the exclusive right to sell the drug for five years.

But before Eisai could, the firm had to go through the Drug Enforcement Agency, said company lawyer Allen Waxman.

“That took over a year after the drug was approved for epilepsy patients,” he said.

In other words, Eisai lost a year of exclusivity due to bureaucratic bottlenecks. You can imagine if you had a blockbuster drug on your hands that could cost you a lot of money. The proposed legislation would start the exclusivity clock only after DEA approval.

Attorney Kurt Karst with Hyman Phelps said “at the end of the day, it is about a fairness issue. And it’s a relatively simple fix.”

This is one of those problems that only a small number of companies lose sleep over. But it’s a gesture Congress can make toward those companies, even as lawmakers talk about reining in the price of drugs overall.

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