Reform passes House with pros, cons for pharma

Want pharma's good news first? The House Energy and Commerce Committee attached a provision for 12 years of biologic drug exclusivity to broader healthcare reform legislation. That's despite calls from President Obama for seven years of protection and Rep. Henry Waxman's five-year plan. The longer term of exclusivity can also be extended for a variety of reasons, including dosage changes, delivery-method improvements, and so on. Branded drugmakers should be cheered by the protections, though they're already drawing fire from generics makers and some healthcare reform advocates.

The bad news is that the same committee passed reform legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. That provision has been threatened, then tossed aside, and now stands as part of the official bill that will be voted on when the House resumes work in the fall.

Meanwhile, despite Republican-backed legislation that would prohibit the use of comparative effectiveness research to inform treatment guidelines or insurance coverage, the federal agencies charged with funding that research are backing studies that don't just look at efficacy, but at costs as well. This is something Big Pharma has fought vociferously, saying that any cost comparisons would inevitably lead to denial of care.

But the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health say they not only want to help doctors and patients pick the most effective treatments, but also to help control healthcare costs, the Wall Street Journal reports. To that end, they're starting out with research into arthritis and cancer treatments, among others that are expensive to treat. HHS says, however, that the stimulus law that handed these agencies the funds for CE studies stipulates that Medicare can't use the results to deny coverage. The first grants are set to be awarded later this month.

- see the biologics story in the Wall Street Journal
- read the biologics blog post at The Nation
- get more from the WSJ Health Blog
- find the CE story, also at the WSJ

ALSO: The "Blue Dog" Democrats who have served as a major stumbling block for healthcare reform legislation have received more industry funding than other Democrats, the Washington Post reports. "The Blue Dogs are carrying water for the industry," one pro-reformer told the paper. Report