Mon | Mar 4, 2024

White House threatens patents of high-priced drugs developed with taxpayer dollars

Published:Friday | December 8, 2023 | 9:46 AM
President Joe Biden speaks during an event on prescription drug costs, in the East Room of the White House, August 29, 2023, in Washington. The Biden administration is putting pharmaceutical companies on notice. It's warning them that if the price of certain drugs is too high, they might allow other companies to make their product. Under the new plan, the government would consider overriding the patent for high-priced drugs that have been developed with the help of taxpayer money. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is putting pharmaceutical companies on notice, warning them that if the price of certain drugs is too high, the government might cancel their patent protection and allow rivals to make their own versions.

Under a plan announced Thursday, the government would consider overriding the patent for high-priced drugs that have been developed with the help of taxpayer money and letting competitors make them in hopes of driving down the cost.

In a 15-second video released to YouTube on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden promised the move would lower prices.

“Today, we're taking a very important step toward ending price gouging so you don't have to pay more for the medicine you need,” he said.

White House officials would not name drugs that might potentially be targeted.

The government would consider seizing a patent if a drug is only available to a “narrow set of consumers,” according to the proposal that will be open to public comment for 60 days. Drugmakers are almost certain to challenge the plan in court if it is enacted.

It's the latest health policy pitch from a White House gearing up to make its efforts to tackle drug prices a central theme in next year's reelection campaign.

With health care costs in mind, the administration also sent a warning Thursday to private equity firms that have been buying up and gutting hospitals and physician practises around the country, then selling for a profit.

Already, Biden has spent months boasting about the US$35 cap on insulin for Medicare enrollees that he signed into law last year and a plan for government officials, for the first time, to negotiate some drug prices paid by Medicare.

Washington has never made such an aggressive move against the patents of drugs, a step called “march-in rights.”

Federal agencies can do so if the federal government has invested money in the research or development of the product.

Follow The Gleaner on X, formerly Twitter, and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.