The din over health care legislation obscures the subsidiary fights occurring at odd corners of the battlefield. One of these concerns data exclusivity for biotch research results, an important topic of passionate interest to the industries involved that gets no attention whatsoever from anyone else. (For a description of the issue, go here.)
The industry wants an exclusivity period of 12 years (well, it wants more, but will settle for 12), and it appears to have locked this into the existing legislation in both the House and Senate, over the opposition of House health baron Henry Waxman and the Administration, who think 7 years is enough.
But nothing is over until its over, and Waxman and the Administration, and the generic manufacturers, have not quit trying to squeeze the period down, according to the AP. It could just be bargaining, notes the article. In the sink of corruption called DC, there is no particular reason to think the advocates of a shorter period believe actually this is pro bono publico:
The drug industry . . . is already under pressure to boost the $80 billion, 10-year contribution it agreed to make to the overhaul last year.
The effort to reduce biotech drug protections could be a way for the administration to pressure the industry to increase its contributions, or to make it easier for Obama to show the $80 billion deal with drugmakers will benefit consumers.
I favor more IP protection rather than less, for reasons explained in Bleeding Biotech. However, whatever the outcome, it would be nice to have the decision made as a result of an assessment of the needs of the innovation system rather than on the basis of an auction of political support.
Fierce Biotech is afraid that all the work (if one can apply this name to massively expensive influence peddling) already done may be for nought. If health care does not pass, then this issue, like many other sub-problems, will be back to square one, and the incentives for innovation will continue to suffer from regime uncertainty.
This is unfortunate, because the only realistic road to increasing the efficiency of the system goes through fostering innovation, not discouraging it.