HHS chief mulling controversial 'march-in' to smack down patents & tackle drug prices
- Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has responded positively to a group of lawmakers who want to invoke so-called "march-in" rights to lift patent protection on expensive drugs.
- In January, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and his Congressional colleagues penned a letter to Burwell and HHS/the National Institutes of Health asking that the agency take action to counter out-of-control drug prices.
- According to reporting from The Hill, when asked whether HHS was taking the letter seriously, Burwell responded affirmatively.
Using "march-in" rights to lift patent protection in order to open the market up to generic drug makers has never occurred before, although the law has been on the books since 1980. If this unprecedented action were to take place, it would be the result of a cacophony of outcries from lawmakers, presidential political candidates, patient advocacy groups, and private citizens—and occur to the deep consternation and opposition of the biopharma industry.
"Your letter we have received, thank you, and we are continuing to try and pursue every administrative option," said Burwell in response to lawmakers' letter. "We’ve proposed legislative and statutory changes as part of the budget, but are looking at a wide array, of which we welcome your letter and your suggestions"
The attention to excessive price increases, which was set off in earnest when Turing Pharma increased the price of Daraprim by 5,000%, has not wavered since last summer. That being said, there would most likely be intense pushback from industry if march-in orders are invoked.