Howard Dean and Biologics

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Monday’s New York Times op-ed page features a piece by two experts at Duke University’s “Program on Global Health and Technology Access” arguing against 12-year patent protection for ultraexpensive “biologic” drugs. Some highlights:

EVERYONE knows that an easy way to save money on medicines is to buy generics rather than brand-name drugs. Makers of generics estimate that over the past decade they have saved the American health care system about $734 billion. Yet, we continue to spend more on drugs — in part because of the increasing use of so-called biologic medicines, which cost, on average, 22 times as much as ordinary drugs. In 2008, 28 percent of sales from the pharmaceutical industry’s top 100 products came from biologics; by 2014, that share is expected to rise to 50 percent….

The proposals before Congress would protect biologic medicines for 12 years after their approval by the Food and Drug Administration — that would be seven more years of market exclusivity than conventional drugs have…..

[Just six biologics] consume 43 percent of the drug budget for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits and outpatient services.

There’s not much reason—other than gobs of lobbyist cash—to extend biologics protection for seven years beyond what is offered to conventional drugs. (Actually, the drug industry is hoping that 12-year biologics protection will help it push for 14-year conventional protection—really.) But as Time‘s Michael Scherer and Karen Tumulty reported in October, two progressive heroes seem to be on the wrong side of this debate:

Among the biologics industry’s most high-profile advocates has been former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who is consulting for a law firm that has a deep roster of biologics clients. In July he wrote an Op-Ed in the Hill newspaper arguing for a “commonsense and fair approach” to give biologics companies at least 12 years of exclusivity. (“I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t believe it,” Dean, a physician, said in an interview.) His former campaign manager Joe Trippi echoed Dean’s views on a Huffington Post blog without disclosing that he had been paid by BIO to create two Web campaigns. (He also says his views predated his paycheck.)

It’s worth keeping all this in mind when Dean warns that passing health care reform would hurt Democrats.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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