Thursday, October 08, 2009

Should Yale support biotech lobbyists?

I understand the hopes, shared alike by local universities and municipalities, that biotech will reenergize Connecticut’s sagging industry and employment landscape. The actual realization of a wealthy, well-educated workforce and lucrative industry may someday redeem the subsidies and other favors made to incentivize the growth of local biotech shops and drug manufacturers in CT.

Reasonable people disagree about the benefits society will reap from lengthy monopolies on biological drugs–for periods of a decade or more.  For instance, is it true that a certain, dozen-year period of drug exclusivity is required for firms to recoup their research?  After all, manufacturers of generic biological drugs will, in all likelihood, confront the same bevy of expensive safety and efficacy testing as the original producer.  In some cases, the sheer cost of reproducing the process for making a biologic treatment may make these inventions immune to the kind of generic versions that can be made of simpler, small-molecule based drugs (mainstream antibiotics and antidepressants, for instance).

In addition, the monopoly provided by government-guaranteed data exclusivity has nothing to do with the already decades-long patent protections that cover the inventions packaged into drugs.

Considering the enormous price that our society will likely pay for high-tech drugs in the coming decades, we should at least understand what kind of deal we’re getting with drug manufacturers as we negotiate the monopolies they’ll receive on the next generation of life-saving treatments.  It is in the interest of the university community, not to mention the Connecticut taxpayer, to keep industry lobbyists like CURE at arms length, at the very least, so that meaningful, two-sided debate can occur on the enormous issues of drug cost and healthcare reform.

Should Yale support biotech lobbyists? |
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