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Published on 14 July 2009

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US drug-patent vote moots 12 years

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A key US senate committee has voted to give 12 years of patent protection to high-tech – and expensive – biologic drugs before generic versions can compete.

But big pharma is not yet home and dry, since the decision needs congressional approval – and Henry Waxman, the energy and commerce committee chairman, strongly supporters a shorter exclusivity period.

The vote in the senate health, education, labour and pensions committee is nevertheless a victory for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, which are seeking 14 years.

They argue that blockbuster drugs must have longer market protection because they are more expensive and time-consuming to produce than regular drugs.

But the Obama administration is pushing for seven years, to give patients quicker access to treatments for conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Biotech drugs do not face generic competition because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have power to approve generic copies.

Efforts to effect change have been held up for nearly a decade by squabbling between the biotech and generic drug industries and their allies on Capitol Hill.

Copyright Press Association 2009

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