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Obama, McCain advisers agree...on generic drugs

September 19, 2008
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Advisers for the presidential candidates have agreed that expanding the use of low-cost generic pharmaceuticals would be near the top of the health care agendas of both Barack Obama and John McCain if elected in November, according to the Associated Press. While the campaigns continue to trade barbs over who is best qualified to change Washington, the candidates'' advisers praised generic drugs as a tool to lower drug costs. Speaking at a conference for generic drug company executives, both campaigns pledged their support to help create a market for generic biotech drugs. Unlike traditional chemical drugs, biotech companies currently face no generic competition in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration lacks authority to approve copies of biotech medicines. Generally, biotech drugs are more complicated than regular drugs because they are made from living cells or bacteria. The generic and biotech drug industries have spent millions of dollars in recent years lobbying Congress over how generic biotech drugs should be approved. Perhaps the greatest disagreement is over how long a biotech drug should be on the market before a generic drugmaker can challenge its patent. The Biotech Industry Organization has called for 14 years of market exclusivity, while its generic counterpart says drugs should get no more than five years of protection. Industry trends continue to favor generic drugmakers as more blockbuster drugs from the 1990s lose patent protection and begin competing with low-cost versions. Generic drugs already account for two-thirds of all prescriptions dispensed in the U.S., according to data presented by research firm IMS Health. That share will only increase as nearly $75 billion in drugs are expected to lose patent protection over the next four years. The generic drug industry has witnessed a wave of mergers as companies try to streamline costs and snatch a larger share of the expanding global market. The increasingly global nature of drug manufacturing has both the public and government concerned.

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