Biden administration OKs ability to seize drug patents to lower costs

After a nearly nine-month review, the Biden administration has determined it has the authority to seize the patents of certain high-priced drugs developed with taxpayer funds — a policy known as march-in rights. 

People familiar with the matter told Politico in a Dec. 6 report that the administration will not endorse widespread use of the policy and isn't planning to target any individual medicines. A day later, the White House released a framework recommending the factors federal agencies should consider when determining when to use march-in rights, which, for the first time, specifies that a medication's price can be a factor in determining whether to break a patent and share it with other drugmakers. 

The move marks the Biden administration's latest push to lower drug prices, a key part of President Joe Biden's healthcare agenda and reelection campaign.

"We'll make it clear that when drug companies won't sell taxpayer-funded drugs at reasonable prices, we will be prepared to allow other companies to provide those drugs for less," Lael Brainard, a national economic adviser to the White House, said in a Dec. 6 press call, according to CNBC

The Commerce Department issued the proposed framework and will accept public comment for 60 days, CNBC reported. Pharmaceutical companies have long argued that march-in rights, which have never been used before, would disincentivize the development of new drugs.

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